The Puthuvype LPG terminal Virudha Samara Samithi has alleged that they were not informed about the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests’ decision to renew the environmental clearance (EC) for the upcoming LPG terminal.
The Samara Samithi leaders said that while a dispute was on, it was the offices concerned’s responsibility to inform about the renewal of EC through the Court. The LPG terminal project is facing the wrath of Puthuvype natives who are on an indefinite strike.
The Samara Samithi had filed an appeal before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) challenging the Union Ministry’s order granting the extension of validity of environmental clearance for the terminal. However, the Tribunal dismissed the appeal on the grounds of limitation. As per the NGT norms, the appellant must have approached the tribunal within 30 days of issuing the order. The NGT while dismissing the appeal pointed out that the Samara Samithi challenged the order 60 days after the date of communication of the order.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had renewed the environmental clearance for the Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOC) LPG project through an order dated June 1, 2017. According to this order, the validity of the environmental clearance granted to the LPG terminal has been extended to another three years.
“The Tribunal took a highly partial stand in this regard. Our arguments were not even considered. At least the IOC should have informed us about the EC order through the Court. There is a dispute pending in the High Court filed by Samara Samithi members raising concerns about the environmental clearance. In this scenario, what has happened now is unfortunate and partial. We will surely challenge this at the Supreme Court,” said K. S. Murali, Samara Samithi secretary.
The Tribunal has also stated that the appellants failed to provide a sufficient cause for approaching the Tribunal late. “Most of us who are striking against the LPG terminal are from average academic and social background. We do not regularly check websites. But nowadays, we do that because we know there is no other way to get updated about the project. When we visited the project website, we could understand that the order which was issued in 2017 was filed under the 2016 category of documents. This was an attempt to misinform us, thereby creating confusions,” Murali said.
The Puthuvype LPG project was initiated in 2009. Realising that the project had not even cleared necessary formalities and anticipated the environmental and ecological impacts, the mass protest was formed against the project.
Petronet LNG terminal, commissioned in 2013 and KRL (Kochi Refineries Limited) operated loading buoy (an interconnect for tankers for loading and offloading petroleum products) are situated in the same locality. “Those who oppose our struggle against the LPG terminal ask us why we allowed the LNG terminal and KRL to operate while we protest against the LPG terminal. I have only this much to say to them. Our struggle against the LPG project was not a made-up one. We all felt it was our duty to protect the land on which we survive, the air we breathe and thereby ensure a safe residence for the future generations,” Murali added.
“The LNG project has already created a panic kind of situation among the locals. After commissioning the project, several classes were held for the natives to teach the measures to be taken during the time of accidental leak at the LNG terminal. The guidelines were scary and were a clear indication that the place which we were living was slowly becoming a non-habitable area. The guidelines said that it was our own duty to safeguard our lives. When the LNG project began, we were not much conscious about the consequences. But now we know what exactly we are going through. The impact to the environment and public life here would be irreversible. The LNG terminal has not yet been fully operational. As time goes, people will realise its side effects and naturally the protest among them will strengthen against such killing projects, including the LNG,” Murali said.
Elamkunnappuzha panchayat, under which the Puthuvype area falls, is also strictly allying itself with the people’s demands. It has asked IOC to temporarily stop the construction activities of LPG terminal until the dispute over the environmental clearance is over. “We have received a mass appeal against the LPG construction activities and as per that, we have decided to stand with the residents’ demands until the dispute over the environmental clearance is finalised,” said advocate Harish Vasudevan, counsel for panchayat.