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.