Kochi: Construction of the controversial LPG plant at Puthuvype resumed on Monday, two-and-half years after the work was suspended owing to protests by local residents, amidst strong police presence. Work resumed after the district administration clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC at Puthuvype village, comprising 11 wards, at Elamkunnapuzha. Imposition of Section 144 prohibits assembly of four or more people and allows police to arrest people for rioting.
The prohibitory orders is in place in nearly two-km radius of the plant and no vehicles other than that of the police are allowed to enter the restricted area. It is believed that around 1,800 police personnel have been deployed in the area from around 2am on Monday. Police from neighbouring districts are also deployed in the area.
The construction of the plant was suspended in February in 2017 when the agitation by local residents was at its peak. Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) officials said the construction of the jetty, where the ship carrying LPG will be anchored, and 40% of the plant have already been completed. “We resumed the remaining work of the plant on Monday morning and are supposed to complete the construction in 18 months. The work, which was started in February 2016, was expected to be completed in February 2018. But the agitation on the part of local residents delayed the work,” said an IOC official.
The total carrying capacity of the plant is six lakh tonnes annually. The contention of the protesters is that the plant poses threat to the life and property of residents of Puthuvype, which has very high population density.
IOC officials said that currently, five lakh tonnes of LPG is transported to Kerala from Mangaluru by road. With the inception of the plant, the transportation of the fuel will be through pipeline to the bottling plants of IOC in Ernakulam, Kollam and Malappuram. From the bottling plants, the LPG-filled domestic and commercial cylinders will be transported by road to the houses of consumers.
“Annually around 75,000 bulk LPG bullet truck movements take place across the congested Kerala roads to and from Mangaluru. This is highly risky and during the past five years the number of road accidents in Kerala due to LPG bullet trucks have crossed 60. Accidents are still happening and any of them can become gruesome. Oil companies can exercise only very minimum control since most of the accidents involving bullet trucks happen on public roads,” said IOC.
“Hence, the company wants to construct cross-country LPG pipelines so that road transportation of bulk LPG can be completely eliminated. Puthuvype LPG Import Terminal is essential for this so that the fuel could be brought by sea to Kochi and further transported to various bottling plants through pipeline,” said the official.
The LPG plant is constructed at a cost of Rs 750 crore.
The protest against the plant turned violent in June 2017 when agitating residents took out a march to the High Court Junction two days prior to the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate Kochi Metro. Many people got injured after police caned them. Later, many agitators were arrested. A case related to this is going on with the state human rights commission against city police. The then DCP of Kochi City Yatish Chandra was summoned by the commission.