Monday, Jul 04, 2022

Why Is The Kashmir Gas Pipeline Project A Pipe Dream?

A similar project failed to take off in 2011 because of difficult terrain and cost escalation

Representational Image Unsplash

While announcing the Union Budget for 2021-22 on Monday, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said a gas pipeline project will be taken to Jammu and Kashmir. However, a project on almost similar lines announced by the then Omar Abdullah-led National Conference and Congress government in 2011 couldn’t take off as the company, which was awarded the contract, backed off due to the difficult terrain and cost escalation.

After today’s announcement, Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha hailed the move, saying, "I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modiji and Union home minister Amit Shahji for announcing a new gas pipeline project for the development of Jammu and Kashmir in Budget 2021. I congratulate finance minister Nirmala Sitharamanji for an inclusive and growth-oriented historic budget for Aatmanirbhar Bharat.”

In Srinagar, BJP spokesman hailed a special gas pipeline package.

However, in 2011, the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had given gave nod to the gas pipeline project of 750-km from Bathinda to Srinagar. It was called the Bathinda-Srinagar gas pipeline project. It was said the project would be completed within three years from the launch of the project.

That time Omar had said by connecting the state to the National Gas Grid through this pipeline and ultimately linking individual households with the gas stations through a network of supply pipelines to get unabated gas supply throughout the year is the main objective of the project. The consumer affairs and public distribution (CAPD) department was the nodal agency for the project at the state level, while divisional commissioners of Kashmir and Jammu were tasked to oversee its affairs at divisional level and respective deputy commissioners at the district levels.

The project was cleared by the Omar Abdullah government after the GSPL-led consortium bagged the order for it after bidding. The then government had also earmarked funding of Rs 102 crore for the project in Kathua and Samba.

The original completion date for laying the 725km long pipeline project was July 6, 2014. In June 2013, the J&K governor even issued an ordinance to facilitate the acquisition of land for laying the pipeline from Bhatinda in Punjab to Srinagar via Jammu. The ordinance was modeled on Gujarat Water and Gas Pipeline Act, 2000.

Official sources told Outlook that the project couldn’t go take off because of severe terrain challenges. They said the cost escalation also became an issue leading the company to back off.