Facts about Land Use for GAIL Pipeline
The setting up of the Kochi-Mangalore pipeline by GAIL is one of the largest infrastructure projects in recent times. Initiated by GAIL in 2011, the Rs 3,400 crore project envisages the development of a natural gas pipeline infrastructure that would cover Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Approximately 505 km of the 900 km pipeline will pass through seven districts of Kerala including Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Thrissur, Ernakulam and Palakkad districts. Phase I of the project which comprises 43 kms of pipeline connecting Puthuvype to Kalamassery has been completed. However, the second phase of the project has been delayed due to controversies regarding safety, land acquisition and compensation.
The land facts regarding the GAIL project can be summarised as follows:
Right of Use: The total land needed by GAIL for the project is 18 acres. The land is not being acquired but is only being taken under Right of Use. This means that the ownership of the land does not change hands and the land owner is paid compensation for giving GAIL the Right of Use. There are certain restrictions regarding construction on the land once the Right to Use has been taken by GAIL. However, the land owner can still cultivate such crops that are not deep-rooted, like plantain (bananas), vegetables and paddy.
The Compensation Amount: As stated above, the land owner is paid compensation for granting GAIL the Right of Use. The normal compensation amount paid by GAIL for Right of Use is 10 percent of the fair value. However, with the State Government’s active intervention, a special compensation rate has been fixed for Kerala. Owners whose lands are being taken under the Right of Use will be given 30 percent of the fair value of the land.
Minimal Land Acquisition: The State Government has taken the initiative to ensure that amount of land acquired for the project is the minimal possible. The usual practice is for GAIL to acquire at least 20 metres land width in order to lay pipelines. But this has been reduced to 10 metres for Kerala. This was done keeping in view the fears expressed by the affected sections of the population.
Safety Issues: All regulatory and mandatory safety policies will be complied with. The project is regulated by the Oil Industry Safety Directorate (under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas), which will conduct pre-commissioning inspections and audits. It will also be audited for safety by the Chief Controller of Explosives and third parties such as the British Safety Council, apart from the internal auditor. Pipeline explosions do take place, but these are accidents that happen rarely. As per statistics, the possibility of being killed by lightning is higher than that of being killed in a pipeline explosion. Densely populated cities like Mumbai and Delhi have been using pipelines for distributing cooking gas and the safety record has been extremely good.
The success of land use planning for pipelines is based on the understanding and relationship that develops between the pipeline operator, local government and the property owner. A successful relationship will help in the setting up and safe management of the pipeline. In the case of Kerala, GAIL has taken into consideration the fears and anxieties of the local population and made the required adjustments in its land use policies.