Tension at Koottanad over GAIL pipeline project
A tense situation prevailed at Thanneerkkodu, near Koottanadu under the Thrithala Assembly Constituency, on Monday afternoon when the local community forcibly tried to prevent offloading of construction items and pipeline material meant for connecting the hub of the multi-crore Kochi-Koottanadu-Mangalore-Bangalore natural gas pipeline project of the Gas Authority of India (GAIL).
The police resorted to a mild lathicharge to push back the protesters and arrested over 20 persons.
Later, the agitators, led by local Congress MLA V.T. Balram, held a sit-in on the Palakkad-Ottappalam-Pattambi-Ponnani State highway disrupting normal traffic for over three hours. The protest ended late in the evening after the Palakkad District Superintendent of Police intervened to release the arrested leaders.
Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Balram alleged that the construction company, acting on behalf of GAIL, had decided to offload the materials all of a sudden after getting a go-ahead permission from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who was attending various meetings in adjacent Shornur and Ottappalam. Mr. Balaram alleged that the Chief Minister was supporting the GAIL project openly without hearing the grievances of the local farming community in the Kootanadu region.
On Monday, construction and pipeline materials reached Koottanad for the first time. “We are not against the GAIL project, but the demand is that it must be implemented only after alleviating the fears of the local community. The main concern is safety as the Koottandu natural gas hub would come up in a reclaimed paddy field surrounded by thickly populated areas.
Apart from safety, the local people are concerned about the adverse manner in which the plant would affect paddy cultivation. It would block flow of water in local streams,” said Balram, who suggested a proper consultation between GAIL officials and the local people before initiating the project.
Women and children
The protesters included a large number of women and children.
They raised slogans against the Chief Minister and his stand that there would be no negotiations over the GAIL pipeline implementation project. Mr. Balram wanted a shift in the location of the gas hub apart from proper policy decisions taking into consideration the needs and concerns of the local people.