Belthangady, August 23: It was a sense of déjà vu for the villagers in Belthangady taluk — from Neriya, Dharmasthala, Koyoor, among others — who gathered here on Thursday to voice their opposition against the laying of, another, pipeline through their fields.
The Rs. 660-crore, 397-km liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) pipeline project, to be undertaken by Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) from Mangalore to Bangalore, via Hassan, will go across 12 villages in the taluk.
On August 17, Neriya residents threatened to turn violent over the project. Following this, a meeting was held, albeit under police presence, among Hindustan Petroleum officials, political representatives, taluk administration and villagers here on Thursday.
However, even at the end, the villagers unequivocally opposed the project.
Bitter past experiences
Much of the opposition stems from their “bitter experiences” from the petrol pipeline that was laid there by HPCL/ Petronet after much protest in 2001.
R. Murali, Chief Manager, Hindustan Petroleum, said as the old project had 18-metre-wide land (that is mandated by law for the laying of the pipeline), the new project will require only 6 m if laid parallel to the old pipe. The land will be “temporarily acquired” and handed back.
However, Yadapathi Gowda, from Padubettu village, said farmers were being “cheated” by this logic. “They say you can only grow rice, and not areca and rubber because of its deep roots. And even if you grow rice, they level it without notice during pipe inspection,” he said.
Another point of contention was the acquisition of 7.12 acres at Neriya for a pump house that will propel the gas uphill over the Western Ghats. Moreover, they feared compensation will not be given to many farmers who have not been given title deeds by the government.
While listing out the need for the project, Mr. Murali said the current system of LPG transport by trains and buses were unreliable, expensive, dangerous and polluting.
Unconvinced by his claim that the pipes were safe, villagers point out frequent leaks take place and petrol thefts. MLA K. Vasant Bangera said the matter would be brought to the notice of the Chief Minister.