|Kochi: The deadline for completing the city gas project is fast nearing. With just four months left, IOC-Adani Gas Private Ltd (IOAGPL) could give just around 1,900 piped natural gas (PNG) connections so far while the target was around 40,000 connections in five years starting October 14, 2015. This has resulted in a stalemate over the fate of the project which would have been instrumental in providing cooking gas to thousands of households.
“We could provide around 1,900 PNG connections so far. We have completed the plumbing works in around 15,000 households,” an official with IOAGPL said.Once the tenure is expired, IOAGPL will require permission from Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board for continuing the project. “There is no clarity regarding whether we should give 40,000 connections in five years or set up the infrastructure for providing that much connections. If setting up infrastructure required for providing 40,000 connections is enough, we have arranged the required infrastructure,” the official said.
However, laying of pipelines for supplying the gas is yet to begin in many of the local bodies. IOAGPL officials blame the local bodies, which failed to provide approval for digging up roads for the purpose, for the delay while authorities of various local bodies allege that the apathy on the part of the agency is the reason for the slow pace of the project. “Initially, there was a dispute regarding the low road restoration charges fixed by the government. Later, the government revised the order fixing reasonable charges. So, we all want the project, which is beneficial to the public, to be implemented,” said Kochi corporation works standing committee chairman P M Harris. “We have cleared all the files related to the road cutting permission sought by the firm,” Harris said. But IOAGPL hasn’t started the work in Kochi Corporation limits, let alone giving PNG connections.
Following back to back delays and disputes in implementing the project, Ernakulam district collector intervened. Then, approvals were given for digging up roads in some of the wards in Thrikkakara municipality. District administration informed IOAGPL that the digging up of roads in other local bodies like Eloor and Tripunithura also can be started once the work in Thrikkakara is over. But the IOAGPL couldn’t register much progress in the work in Thrikkakara municipality. “There were various technical reasons. Now, there is the shortage of workforce due to the restrictions as part of Covid-19 situation,” an official with IOAGPL said. Even if the restrictions are lifted, the firm will have to wait for the monsoon to be over. By that time, declarations for local body elections will be out.