The Supreme Court of India upheld its earlier decision in favour of GAIL Ltd permitting it to continue with the construction of the gas pipeline connecting Kochi and Bengaluru via Tamil Nadu.
For close to three decades, IE has been strongly advocating the construction of a national gas grid. So far the consumption of natural gas, both produced within the country and imported, has been concentrated in the western and northern states. Gujarat accounts for the largest share of such gas consumed. To such benefit!
Apart from advocacy through IE, we also organised a seminar on December 2009. Several business leaders and policy makers from AP, Kerala and Tamil Nadu participated. We also addressed the 58 MPs from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on this issue. Then P&NG Minister Murli Deora announced in the Parliament in January 2010 of the construction of a national gas grid to be completed by December 2012.
Unfortunately policymakers and business leaders in Tamil Nadu did not quite appreciate the elegance, economics and the ease of natural gas/LPG as feedstock for fertilisers and petrochemicals and as fuel for power, transport and domestic use.
The opposition from a few hundred farmers in the seven western districts of the state has delayed the laying of the pipeline that would have benefitted over 170 lakh population of these districts.
The construction of the national grid was entrusted to GAIL and Reliance Industries. GAIL proceeded ahead with its part of constructing pipelines from Dabhol in Maharashtra and Kochi in Kerala to serve Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and parts of Tamil Nadu. Sadly, Reliance did not exert. It was given the mandate to construct pipelines to transmit gas from the Krishna Godavari basin to Chennai-Tuticorin and Chennai-Bengaluru in the south and Kakinada-Kolkata-Jagdishpur which would benefit several states en route. Six precious years were wasted with Reliance just doing nothing. Sadly the P&NG Ministry did not bother to monitor or take corrective action. Only recently Indian Oil has been entrusted with laying the pipelines, earlier entrusted to Reliance.
The Modi government in its recent budget announced an important plan of providing LPG gas connections to five crore BPL families. Spur lines along the national gas grid will help take gas to thousands of towns and villages benefitting millions to use gas for its myriad applications.
GAIL should not waste time and complete the pipeline across Tamil Nadu in the three months when the Tamil Nadu politicians will be busy electioneering. For speedy construction it can take a lesson from Reliance: RIL constructed 1400 km of pipeline from Kakinada to Bharuch in a year on the hope of utilising all the gas produced by it at the KG basin for its own use in Gujarat. - SV