As per report tamilnadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami’s announcement at a public meeting in salem about legislating a special Act to protect the Cauvery Delta as a protected agricultural region is welcome news. Considering the explicit reference made to hydrocarbon projects in the delta, such an announcement can only mean that the government too acknowledges the incompatibility of hydrocarbon activities with activities such as agriculture and fisheries. Such an acknowledgement is scientifically sound.
However, a day before this announcement, the cm declared with some sense of achievement that the long-dormant proposal for a petrochemical refinery in Cuddalore one of the delta districts would be revived with a Rs 50,000 crore investment by Haldia Petrochemicals. Meanwhile the plans are afoot to replace the existing 1 million tonne per annum (mtpa) Cauvery basin refinery in Nagapattinam, with a 9 mtpa refinery complete with a mega polypropylene plastics manufacturing unit.
Moreover the refineries will serve as anchor industries and a supplier of a range of products that will serve as raw materials or intermediates for the production of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, plastics such as poly viny chloride and polypropylene, and fertilisers. These industries are both land- and water-intensive, the land-use changes that result from such large-scale industrialisation is likely to put farm livelihoods at risk. Perhaps in tamilnadu, the ruling party and the opposition have expressed their support to the call of delta residents to convert the region into a special agricultural zone. To do that, they have to reject the PCPIR project and the two refineries that are central to it, put a freeze on any further hydrocarbon exploration or extraction, and shut down all unlicensed hydrocarbon activities in the delta.