Six years on, piped gas project moves at a snail’s pace

Of around 42,000 households that have registered for piped natural gas connections provided by Indian Oil-Adani Gas Private Limited (IOAGPL) in the district, only around 3,550 houses are its actual consumers.

The company received authorisation from the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board in 2015 and work began soon after, said Ajay Pillai, deputy general manager. Plumbing and connections have been provided in around 16,100 households, but the network has not yet reached all households where plumbing was done, he said.

Currently, work is under way only in 13 wards of Thrikkakara municipality. Work was done earlier in six wards of Kalamassery municipality, but is yet to begin in other wards. The company is still awaiting permissions from Aluva and Maradu municipalities. “We will be informed once the municipality council clears it,” Mr. Pillai said.

In corporation

In Kochi Corporation, the company is in the process of depositing a bank guarantee and supervisory charges for the road trenching and restoration process, and work is likely to begin from Sahodaran Ayyappan Road once the process is complete by the end of the month.

Around 12,000 households had registered for connections from within corporation limits, though the work had not begun. The corporation council had raised concerns over handing over road restoration to the company, delaying the requisite permissions.

“We had committed to providing 40,701 connections by the end of the company’s exclusivity period. The exclusivity period, which was extended once due to the floods, ends in September this year, but is likely to be extended again due to COVID,” Mr. Pillai said.

Registration cost

In Thrikkakara, an agreement was signed with the company in 2017, but work has been progressing at a snail’s pace, said Ajita Thankappan, chairperson, Thrikkakara municipality. “Residents who had registered paid around ₹5,600 for connections, and they have now been asking about the amount they paid since most of them are not receiving piped gas yet,” she said. Mr. Pillai said that as per the revised rate, registrations now cost ₹7,118.

Audit objection

In Kalamassery municipality, an audit objection was raised over the payment that IOAGPL had made to the local body for restoration of roads, said Rukiya Jamal, former chairperson of the municipality.

When work began in Kalamassery, the company was required to deposit the restoration charges with the municipality and the civic agency would restore the roads. A later government order allowed the company to both dig and restore roads, while depositing 10% of the restoration charge with the local body as guarantee.

“The audit objection for the 2017-18 financial year was raised over the issue that the company paid a little over ₹1 crore less than the required amount, causing loss to the municipality.

“We had written to the company asking them to get the audit objection resolved at the government level or pay the remaining amount,” she said. Mr. Pillai said that issue over the audit has been cleared.

The council had decided last year that unless certificate confirming completion of work is submitted and residents are receiving piped gas, further permissions will not be given for pipeline laying, Ms. Jamal said.

‘No option’

In Maradu, permissions were delayed because the council was reluctant to hand over restoration of roads to the company. “But since there is a government order allowing the company to restore roads, we are left with no option but to allow it,” said Antony Ashanparambil, Maradu municipality chairperson.

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