Chemical hubs: A distant dream?

I have always been a little sceptical about the Indian government’s plans to build mega chemical hubs across the country. And recent reports have only reinforced some of my doubts. Not only will the scale of these projects be challenging but getting land and convincing the local people on the long-term economic benefits of these projects will become increasingly difficult.

Fresh evidence of this is available in this report on Daijiworld (a portal linking the west coast of India to the rest of the world) which states that the proposed Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemical Investment Region (PCPIR) at Mangalore are facing opposition from local farmers. The report states that the farmers “would not be handing over their fertile lands for the projects at any cost”. There also appears to be confusion on how much agricultural land would be needed to develop the SEZ and PCPIR.

The major projects in Mangalore are a refinery expansion and a new aromatics facility by Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL).

The comments posted at the end of the Dajjiworld report are even more interesting and they clearly show how divided the local community is on these mega projects. Lack of information is also evident with one commentator fearing that toxic emissions from the refinery would not leave any healthy children in the region. Another comment states that it is not only farmers that are opposing the project and other people have questions on the concessions that will have to be granted to make the projects viable.

Poor communication is at the heart of this problem. And I am quite clear that the chemical industry and local governments will have to join hands if they are serious about building hubs.

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3 Responses to Chemical hubs: A distant dream?

  1. Ramesh Salian 13 January, 2008 at 3:53 am #

    Dear Madam,

    Poor communication is not at the heart of this problem.

    This region has a history of mass movements against Mega Industries (well informed protests)
    May be this region is one of the district of Karnataka. But Geographically and Culturally it is distinct from other parts of Karnataka. It has it’s own language, cultural identity. The mindset which proposed Petrochemical SEZ and expanded the concept to a 300 sq. km PCPIR, treats our region like Bangalore’s backyard.

    There are 4 studies commissioned by the govt of Karnataka in the past, which have recommended Industrial Carrying Capacity Study of the region which would help the govt. to list out industries that can be allowed in this ecologically sensitive region.

    The Canara Chamber Of Commerce and Industries
    while appealing to the then CM of Karnataka in 2001 to grant an SEZ, has very clearly asked him to exclude chemical industries from the proposed SEZ. citing sensitive nature of the region as the reason.

    And finally the track record of MRPL the Anchor Tenant in MSEZ and PCPIR is very bad, right from land acquisition to resettlement, rehabilitation. And post operation pollution management. (The company might show the awards it has got, you’ll find the truth if you speak to the people living around it)

    Please read the link for the latest
    http://www.hindu.com/2008/01/13/stories/2008011353760500.htm

  2. Shiela 21 January, 2008 at 8:21 pm #

    I’m not surprised by the latest Oil Leak from MRPL. There was one in 1997 that polluted several drinking water wells and laid redundant(till date) paddy fields and areca plantations. Another leak of December 1999 is still not plugged even after all the ‘experts’ were called in. MRPL has yet to comply with the observations and recommendations made in 2005 by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Waste. The Karnataka State Pollution Board is happy to let things go on as they are. AND…. MRPL is to expand its capacities and diversify with ONGC and the state govt backing it! I think its shameful that a Co. that cannot even conduct its operations right now cleanly or ethically, is not hauled up by the KSPCB or the Envt Ministry and succeeds in buying all clearances for itself to keep expanding…

  3. Prashantha moodabidri 9 June, 2008 at 6:25 pm #

    The ball is in our court, Mangalore people should awake at least now and stop the project by protesting various ways. Otherwise we all perish in future because of dreadful dangerous chemicals – please remember Bhopal gas leak

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