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Barmer refinery in Rajasthan hits salt mine roadblock

The refinery-cum-petrochemical complex in Rajasthan’s Barmer is likely to hit a major roadblock with salt producers in the area uniting to oppose it, claiming that if established, the mega project would ruin the salt mines, rendering more than 10,000 people jobless

jaipur Updated: Nov 02, 2017 20:26 IST
Mukesh Mathrani
Mukesh Mathrani
Hindustan Times
Rajasthan news,Barmer refinery,salt producers
Salt heaps at the refinery site in Barmer. (HT Photo.)

The much-awaited and ambitious 9-million-tonne refinery-cum-petrochemical complex in Barmer’s Pachpadra is likely to hit a major roadblock with the salt producers in the area now uniting to oppose it claiming that if established, the mega project would ruin the salt mines rendering nearly 10,000 people jobless.

The salt producers have also formed a committee — Shri Aashapurna Mataji Dharti Putra Sena — to lead their movement.

On Tuesday, hundreds of salt producers submitted a memorandum to the local tehsildar demanding to keep their land free from the refinery project. They said nearly 200 salt mines are located on the land proposed for the refinery. More than 10,000 people are directly or indirectly connected with the salt industry, they said in the memorandum and added that the project will destroy their only source of livelihood.

They warned that if their demands were not met, they will intensify the agitation.

According to the salt producers, an agreement was signed between the state government and salt industry under which Pachpadra, where salt is manufactured, was declared as reserved area under the ‘Rajasthan Land Revenue (Allotment of conversion of land for saline areas), Rules 1970 vide notification dated April 30, 1973.

They alleged that the government was also ignoring a Supreme Court judgment regarding the land, which has now been now proposed for the refinery. According to them, the apex court had ordered that 33,000 bighas land (approx 13,000 acres) was reserved for salt industries and no other industry or project can be set up on that specific land.

They alleged that earlier, during the public hearing for the environment clearance for the project, they had registered their objections but the then collector had ignored it.

They urged the government to keep the salt mines area free from the refinery project and warned that if their demand was not accepted, they will intensify their protest.

It may be mentioned here that the proposed refinery has remained a big political issue in the state. The previous Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in state had inked the MoU with HPCL to establish the refinery at Pachpadra. In September 2012 during UPA regime, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had laid the foundation stone for the refinery in Pachpadra.

However, soon after assuming power in state, the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government went for a review of the project alleging that the MoU signed by the previous goverment was a deal of loss.

In April this year, Raje inked a fresh MoU with HPCL and announced that the work on the refinery would start soon. Senior BJP leaders and official sources said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay down the foundation stone for oil refinery in last week of November.

First Published: Nov 02, 2017 20:25 IST