Amid protests by the local tribal population, Asia’s longest pipeline had been given the go-ahead by the Odisha government. And while the foundation stone of the Paradip-Hyderabad Pipeline (PHPL) was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2018, protests against it have not stopped.
The about 1200-km long pipeline worth close to Rs 3,800 crores will stretch from Paradip in Odisha to Hyderabad. It will cover around 330 kms in Odisha, 723 kms in Andhra Pradesh, and 160 kms in Telangana. It is being built for the transportation of 4.5 million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA) of petrol, diesel, and aviation fuel.
The tribal population in Odisha has been resisting the construction of the pipeline for the past two years. They have faced the loss of ecology and livelihood, not to mention injustice on a massive scale due to the intended Posco steel plant. The local population witnessed a crackdown due to their resistance to the steel plant.
There is fear and anxiety on the ground with grazing grounds now being taken over by the Indian Oil Corporation. Speaking to NewsClick, Debendra Swain from Dhinkia village in Jagatsinghpur district said: “We have vowed to protect our land, if we lose it we will have nothing left. The state has misled us and lied to us consistently. No consent was taken and now large swathes of our land and our homes are on the brink of destruction.”
The villagers, mostly women, took to the streets against the pipeline in the beginning of November with over 600 families participating in the protests. The agitation was renewed after previous appeals to the district administration went unnoticed, the villagers said.
Speaking to NewsClick, Prasant Parikray, an Odisha-based activist, said: “We have consistently protested and resisted the pipeline for over two years now. The village administration is conducting meetings and has also promised us a public hearing but we do not see this materialising as illegal work and construction has already kicked off. We demand that the project is stopped.”
On November 17, the people wrote a letter to the Collector. The letter said:
“We the people of Dhinkia Gram Panchayat have been facing unprecedented repression over the past 20 years for demanding rights from the Govt. and companies like POSCO, Indian Oil and others. We have been deprived of all facilities and are somehow managing to eke out a living. Given the situation, Indian Oil is trying to construct its pipeline on the Dhinkia’s community grazing land without following any rules and without our consent. This is a condemnable and undemocratic act. The District Administration and Indian Oil must fulfill our demands else we, the people of Dhinkia, will protest against the project.
We consider the act of constructing pipelines on our community land without our permission... a grave offence. We demand an inquiry into the matter and action to be taken against the guilty. The grazing land must be restored to its original state immediately. Twenty years ago Indian Oil snatched our farming land for its refinery and made false promises of providing us with employment. We are yet to get any employment in the refinery and, having lost our farm land, we lead a very difficult life. Moreover, outsiders are being given jobs but not people from our panchayat. Indian Oil must fulfill its promise,” the letter added.
The locals feel that the pipeline could trigger a massive environmental disaster as a leak could potentially destroy large swathes of land.
The tribes in the region are largely dependent on agriculture and forest produce.
The pipeline passes through key forest divisions in Odisha – Rajnagar Wildlife Division, Cuttack Division, Puri Division and Berhampur Division.
Also Read: Asia’s Longest Pipeline May Cause Environmental Disaster, Triggers Protests in Odisha