Chhara LNG project pipeline faces challenge in lion landscape
Ahmedabad: A natural gas pipeline to connecting the upcoming 5 million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA) LNG regasification terminal at Chhara in Gir-Somnath district and a dispatch terminal at Lothpur in Amreli district is facing execution challenges. null A stretch of the pipeline passes through the eco-sensitive zone of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary that is home to Asiatic lions and final approval from the state forest department and ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEF&CC) has been pending for about two years, said sources close to the development. Gujarat State Petronet Ltd (GSPL), which is laying the 86-km evacuation pipeline is, however, hopeful that the project will be completed on time given that the Rs 4,300-crore LNG terminal is about one and a half years away from completion, said a company official. Congratulations! You have successfully cast your vote A bigger challenge for GSPL is that it is yet to get clearance from the petroleum and natural gas regulatory board (PNGRB) for laying the Rs 622 crore pipeline between Chhara and Lothpur, said a state government source. “The position of the PNGRB chairman has been vacant for quite some time as a result of which many such projects are stuck. GSPL had submitted its Capex plans to PNGRB one and half years ago. Without these clearances, bidding for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) work cannot be started,” said a source. Like any other infrastructure project, there is some resistance from a few local villagers to the proposed pipeline. But these issues can be addressed, a government official said. It is an intra-state pipeline which passes within eco-sensitive zone of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary for a length of 25.8km and at the nearest point is 4.8km from the boundary of the sanctuary in Gir-Somnath district. According to the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) guidelines, if a project is within 10km from any sanctuary, a no-objection certificate is required from the standing committee of the NBWL. A standing committee member said that the proposal is yet to come before the committee for clearance. “Lions have been spotted in and around Chhara and we will look into the project and how it has been planned,” the official said. According to the EIA notification of 14 September 2006, oil and gas pipelines passing through national parks, sanctuaries, coral reefs and ecologically sensitive areas require prior environmental clearance from MoEF&CC. The terminal project is being developed by HPCL Shapoorji Energy Private Limited (HSEPL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL). HSEPL has submitted a wildlife conservation plan with focus on Asiatic lions which has been approved by the state forest department, said a forester aware of the developments. The state wildlife board recommended the project to the state government for consideration seven months ago, said a member of the board. GSPL had entrusted Secon Pvt Ltd with undertaking the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study and preparation of the environmental management plan (EMP) as well as risk assessment and disaster management plans for the proposed pipeline of about 86.61km with a 36-inch diameter having a capacity of 18 million standard cubic metres per day. The pipeline alignment is such that while crossing the ecologically sensitive areas, cutting of trees is minimized or avoided completely, sources in GSPL said. The central government, while planning to cut on oil imports, is shifting to a gas-based economy. With new infrastructure facilities coming up and the state pushing for cleaner fuel, Gujarat, considered a gas hub for over two decades now, is likely to consolidate its position further. GSPL, a Gujarat government undertaking company has been entrusted with erecting a gas grid network in Gujarat by connecting supply points/LNG sources to various demand centres. A public hearing for the environmental clearance was to be scheduled recently but has been postponed due to Cyclone Tauktae which hit parts of Gujarat in May with the Gir sanctuary and forest areas being severely hit.