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Asia’s Longest Pipeline May Cause Environmental Disaster, Triggers Protests in Odisha

Sumedha Pal |
Ahead of the construction of the 1200-km pipeline, tribal villagers across Odisha are highlighting the risks associated it.
Indian Oil

Source: Prasant Parikray

The foundation stone of one of Asia’s longest pipeline project, Paradip-Hyderabad Pipeline (PHPL), was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 2018. Considered as one of his endeavours, the 1200-km long and Rs 3800-crore worth pipeline stretching from Paradip in Odisha to Hyderabad, has triggered a stir as it allegedly poses a major threat to ecology, agriculture and human life.

The pipeline will encompass around 330 km in Odisha, 723 km in Andhra Pradesh, and 160 km in Telangana. It is being built for the transportation of 4.5 million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA) of petrol, diesel, and aviation fuel.

An activist leading the movement against the project said, “It is highly likely that the slightest leak or accident will spiral into deadly and uncontrollable hazards. It is because of such threats that pipelines are facing immense opposition from the indigenous people of the Americas, with the Standing Rock agitation being a well-known instance.”

Deba Swain, an activist associated with the protests in Odisha, said, “There was no consent taken from us. We asked them to show us documents; however, they did not have the said documents. In the Dhinkia village, our lands are being taken away forcefully for the pipeline project on the pretext of job generation, but there is nothing in it for us.”

The project poses a big threat to large swathes of land across states covering forests, farmlands, grazing grounds, and water bodies, the protesters say. The project also poses great risks to adivasi and dalit communities whose land the pipeline will pass through.

Speaking to NewsClick, Prasant Parikray, an Odisha-based activist, said, “The anti-POSCO movement and the anti-Jindal movement have lodged complaints with the government. The land is used by farmers and it's a collective land. They did not take any permission from Gram Sabhas (who play an important role as per the Forest Rights Act). We had filed a complaint with the government two years ago, but no one took cognisance of it.” He added, “Villagers are continuing with the protest; the scale of the devastation is unprecedented. The land being taken away is land meant for public purposes inside villages. People are vehemently opposing the project.”

The pipeline passes through key forest divisions in Odisha—Rajnagar Wildlife division, Cuttack Division, Puri Division, and Berhampur Division among several other, where common land of the villagers will be acquired for the project. Previously, villagers under the Balitutha panchayat in Kujang block had a scuffle with officials from the Indian Oil Corporation Limited as they had come to demarcate land for the proposed pipeline. Reportedly, nearly 50 acres of land has been identified in Balitutha for the project. The actual scale of just how much land will be acquired, with the project being one of the biggest in the continent, remains unascertained.

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