Bhatinda-Srinagar gas pipeline project mired in 7-year old bottleneck
Even after seven years of fanfare announcement, the crucial Bhatinda-Srinagar gas pipeline project, which could have pushed uninterrupted supply of gas to consumers in landlocked Jammu and Kashmir, has seen no headway due to official apathy. “The project as of now has not been abandoned. It is going on in stages but making an amendment of J&K Gas Pipeline Act, 2014 is pending with the state government for last 3 years,” said a senior official of GSPL India Gasnet Limited (GIGL) Gujarat. According to him, the amendment will provide an extension for the vital project which was kick-started in 2011 and save it from being abandoned. “Bringing changes in the Section 3 and 5 of the Act will ensure extension of time period for completion of the project,” he added. Pertinently, in 2016, signing of a memorandum of understanding between the state government and GSPL India Gasnet Limited (GIGL) Gujarat also suffered inordinate delay for laying of the gas pipeline between Bhatinda-Jammu-Srinagar. Blaming ‘bureaucratic impediments’ for implementation of the project, the official said “once the amendment to the act is made, work on J&K sector of the project will start. This is also dependent on availability of funds and clearance from Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.” He said instead of holding back the amendment of the J&K Gas Pipeline Act, 2014, the state government must extend time period of the execution of the project and press the GSPL and Government of India to expedite laying of gas pipeline in J&K. The official said several bottlenecks in the project which originally pans from Mehsana in Gujarat to Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and J&K have been overcome. “Project is already sanctioned for J&K. Funding is not a problem as it comes in stages. This project is vital as it can provide uninterrupted ‘doorstep’ cooking gas supply and moreover employment to youth in 22 districts,” the official said. He said the project has been cleared by several departments including Forest, Pollution Control Board, Ecology and Environment, National Highway, Roads and Buildings departments as well. “87 villages have been identified for gas pipeline route in Kathua and Samba so far and now we are eager to being work on Kashmir region soon,” the official said. The project plans laying of natural gas pipeline in two phases, from Mehsana to Bhatinda and then from Bhatinda to Srinagar via Jammu. The project was cleared by the National Conference-led government in 2011 after the GSPL-led consortium bagged the order for it after bidding. The project envisages supply of round-the-clock LPG to Kashmir which faces frequent shortage of cooking gas in winters due to closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway, sometimes for days together. Once completed, several districts namely Kathua, Jammu, Samba, Udhampur, Ramban, Islamabad (Anantnag) and Srinagar would get connected through the pipeline in the first phase. The original completion date for laying the 725 km long pipeline project was July 6, 2014. In June 2013, J&K Governor issued an Ordinance to facilitate acquisition of land for laying the pipeline from Bhatinda in Punjab to Srinagar via Jammu. In view of the special position of J&K under Article 370, the ordinance was mandatory to facilitate the acquisition of land by the Gujarat-based Corporation for the pipeline. The ordinance has been modeled on Gujarat Water and Gas Pipeline Act, 2000. The High Court in March 2017 ordered the state government as well as Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) to inform it about the status of gas pipeline project from Mehsana-Bhatinda to Srinagar. To mention, Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) on July 7, 2011 had authorized Gujarat State Petronet Limited (GSPL), a subsidiary of the Gujarat Government, to lay Bhatinda-Jammu-Srinagar Gas Pipeline to ensure gas supply for industrial, commercial and domestic use in Jammu and Kashmir, whose major portion remains cut-off from rest of the country during rainy and winter seasons. Subsequently, PNGRB transferred the authorization in favour of GSPL India Gasnet Limited-a consortium comprising of GSPL, Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited.