The farmers of Krishnagiri district protested in front of the collector’s office against the laying of pipelines through their fertile farm lands by Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) for the Kochi-Koottanad-Bengaluru-Mangalore Pipeline project (KKBMPL) on Monday. The farmers, under the leadership of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), submitted a memorandum to the district collector to implement the project along the national highways without affecting the agricultural lands.
The project runs about 45 km in the district, damaging around 1,100 acres of agricultural lands. The farmers of Thirupur district too held a demonstration on Tuesday against the project.
Farmers of 19 Villages Affected
The small and marginal farmers belonging to about 19 villages in the district are being affected by the KKBMPL. The pipelines are laid in such a way that the farmers have been denied the permission to do any sort of agricultural work in the 35-feet stretch on either side of the pipelines. This makes 70 feet wide area from the land they own inaccessible. Considering the fact that these farmers own small pieces of land, their livelihood gets severely affected.
The district secretary of AIKS, Prakash, while speaking to NewsClick, said, “The GAIL pipeline laying project is affecting thousands of farmers of the district. The pipelines are being laid in the fertile lands of the district resulting in severe loss to the farmers. Around 10,000 mango and coconut trees are to be cut down for the project. The pipeline runs through the banks of the Thepennai River, which is supposed to cause severe environmental impact. So, we demand that the pipelines should be laid along the national highways as is done in the nearby states of Kerala and Karnataka”.
Farmers Accountable for Damages to Pipelines
The GAIL has further announced that the owners of the nearby land will be held responsible for any damage to the pipelines. “If there is any such damage, the first person to get affected is the farmer. But, the people executing the project have announced that the farmer of the land will be held responsible for the damage. We have been hearing many instances of oil spillages in delta region due to the poor implementation of the project. So, making the farmers responsible for the damages is a cruel act,” added Prakash.
The farmers are also prohibited from any sort of construction work in these areas along with other conditions – like ban on planting trees with deep roots and digging bore wells. The company carrying out the project is also entitled to clear out any type of crops planted by the farmers around the area of the pipelines at any given time. This further adds to the woes of the farmers since they cannot use the land for any type of agriculture work.
135 Villages of 7 Districts Affected
The pipelining work, aimed at connecting the southern states to the national gas grid, is affecting 135 villages across seven districts in the state of Tamil Nadu. The project covers a distance of 310 kilometres in the state. The farmers have been continuously protesting against the “forceful acquisition of farm lands” for the implementation of the project.
In a report by Financial Express, the general manager (construction) of GAIL, Tony Mathew, had said that ‘the pipeline laying work has been challenging, given that almost 70% of the pipeline length passes through wetland’. This statement justifies the claims of the poor farmers of loss of livelihood because of the implementation of the project. The report also states that the project is aimed at cutting down the cost of the industries using LPG as the feedstock by shifting to cleaner CNG.
The second phase of the project has witnessed several protests in Kerala and Tamil Nadu since it was started in 2012. The late Chief Minister Jayalalitha had promised to stop the project which was termed as a ‘populist measure’ by the Madras High Court.
The farmers are bolstering their opposition to the project fearing the loss of lands. The present state government has been accused of acting as a junior partner of the Narendra Modi-led government, escalating the fears of the farmers. In spite of oppositions and genuine proposals to implement the project on an alternate route alongside the national highways, neither GAIL nor the union or the state governments have shown any concern for the farmers, as they continue to focus on the welfare of the industries.