Once again project work of Essar Oil in Durgapur hit road bock due to protests by angry villagers led by local MLA. Villagers of Kanksa, led by local Forward Bloc MLA stopped pipeline laying work of Essar Oil yesterday morning because the Mumbai-based company had not taken permission before carrying out the job.
Essar Oil was laying the pipeline to send coal-bed methane (CBM) to the upcoming Matix fertilizer plant in Panagarh. Galsi MLA Sunil Mandal alleged that the area where Essar was laying the pipeline is densely populated. He also added that a pipeline of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) already exists there.
“How can Essar lay pipeline to carry CBM through an area where there is already an oil pipeline? Both are highly inflammable and can trigger massive explosions anytime. Around 30,000 villagers live in around 15 villages in the area. I cannot allow this, being the local public representative,” said Mr. Sunil Mandal, who is also a school teacher.
He said he would speak to the chief minister and the industries minister during the assembly session on Monday.
Mandal called up Burdwan district magistrate Saumitra Mohan and asked if Essar had taken the administration’s permission to lay the pipeline.
“The DM told me that he had just assumed charge after being transferred from Darjeeling and was not aware of the Essar Oil’s project status. Before beginning the work on the pipeline, the company did not hold discussions with the residents or me. I have asked the Essar officials here to stop work immediately,” the MLA said.
This is not the first time that the Essar project has hit resistance from local villagers. A number of times earlier also, Lat time, Essar project work has been stopped on 11th August by villagers led by Trinamool leaders alleging discharge of effluents contaminating ponds and agricultural fields and demanding jobs as compensation. They also accused the company of occupying vested plots illegally.
A team of IOC officials visited the spot yesterday afternoon after being informed by the MLA and inspected their pipeline in the area. They however refused comment.
According to an Essar official in Durgapur, the company was laying pipes in several villages of Kanksa, Loudoha, Pandaveswar and Andal to convey CBM to several factories in and around Durgapur and also to the upcoming Matix fertilizer plant in Panagarh. The official said Essar was paying rent to the landowners whose plots were being used for the pipeline project.
“We had already obtained necessary permission from the west Bengal Development Corporation (WBIDC) for laying pipes in the area. I don’t know why the local MLA is now raising objections. We will inform the government,” said Rabin Ghosh, the Deputy General Manager (Corporate communication) of Essar in Mumbai.
Local villagers questioned as to how WBIDC can allow Essar to lay pipeline through a thickly populated area thereby putting their life under risk. Whether WBIDC has the authority to allow the laying of a pipeline that carries highly inflammable gas through a populated area is another question raised by the villagers.