AS Malik describes the do’s and don’ts of scaling the acquisition and clearances challenges in pipeline projects.Pipelines are cost effective, energy efficient, safe and environment friendly with minimal impact on land use pattern and negligible loss of product in transit, but major challenges have emerged in recent years in implementing pipeline projects, mainly in route selection, acquisition of land/Right of Use (RoU), forest clearances and crossing permissions.Route selectionMisjudgement in identifying the route for a pipeline can lead to diversions during construction stage resulting in time and cost overruns. Care should be taken to avoid alignment through forests, mining areas and lands under acquisition for other developmental works. Traditional, low-tech methods of locating an optimal pipeline alignment are tedious, time consuming and not comprehensive. Hence it is important to use modern survey techniques like Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) satellite imagery and Google Earth for obtaining up-to-date geographic information, physical features, mines and forest cover, flood plains and changes thereof.Land acquisition and RoUThe gap between route selection and start of land acquisition process should be kept minimum. Stiff resistance and protest demonstrations by farmers and land owners have become rampant while obtaining right-of-use (RoU), as laying of pipeline leads to restriction in land use. Farmers claim that it also reduces the land value and hence demand higher compensation. Another major problem in the pipeline alignment is when we encounter non-agricultural plots converted to residential. These issues can be resolved only with the help of a competent authority appointed by state governments. But governments often provide retired revenue officers for the purpose, who have constraints in solving field issues.Whose land? A related issue is the widespread lack of clear land titles and updated land records in India. In some states, land records are very old and not updated making identification of owners and stakeholders very difficult. In cases where a piece of land involves multiple survey numbers, obtaining consent of all interested parties is a Herculean task.Acquisition of land for pump stations, terminals and residential colonies has also become extremely time consuming, more so with new rules like obtaining administrative approval of the concerned State Ministry before 4(1) publication. State governments are also reluctant to acquire land for construction of residential colonies.While the proposed Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill (LARR) 2011 will have maximum impact on ongoing and future pipeline projects, the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act 1962 (PMP Act) should be suitably amended to address issues of a) compensation, b) laying of pipeline in common RoU with existing pipelines, c) encroachments in the existing RoU and so on.LARR ProvisionsThe government does not envisage acquiring any multi-crop irrigated land for public purpose or land for private companies for private purpose. Urgency clause can be invoked only for national defence and security and for Rehabilitation & Resettlement (R&R) needs in the event of emergencies or natural calamities. This clause is to be exercised in rarest of rare cases.Compensation: Minimum compensation for land has been addressed in detail (Schedule I):a) Solatium: 100 per cent of total compensation (it was 30 per cent earlier). b) Market value of land to be multiplied by 4 in rural areas.c) In the case of urban areas the award amount would not be less than 2 times the market value.Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R): For land owners:• Subsistence allowance at Rs 3,000 per month per family for 12 months.• Rs 2,000 per month per family as annuity for 20 years, with appropriate index for inflation.• If house is lost, a constructed house of plinth area of 150 sq m in rural areas or 50 sq m in urban areas.• Mandatory employment for one member per affected family or Rs 2 lakh compensation if employment is not offered.• Offer of shares up to 25 per cent of the compensation amount.There are also special provisions for livelihood losers and STs.Application: Both LA and R&R provisions will apply when government acquires landa) for its own use, hold & controlb) with ultimate purpose to transfer it for use by private companies for stated public purpose (including PPP projects but excluding National and State Highway projects)c) for immediate and declared use by private companies for public purpose.Only R&R provisions will apply when private companiesa) buy land equal to or more than 100 acres on their ownb) approach government for partial acquisition for public purpose.Crossing permissionsObtaining permissions from various authorities for routing the pipeline across railways, national highways, river and water course crossings etc, is yet another tedious and time consuming process with some of them having two-tier approval systems. For instance, for more than 100 m crossing length across a railway line, the demand note has to be approved by General Manager (GM) instead of Divisional Railway Manager (DRM). For NHAI crossings, permission is required from Chief General Manager (CGM), regional office through concerned Project Director and for NH crossings, permission is accorded by respective state governments.Some organisations also have restrictions on the kind of technology and method that can be used in these crossings. For instance, Railways allows only cased crossings and not Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) crossings even though the HDD technology has a distinct advantage over conventional techniques that it is a trenchless method requiring minimum excavation to complete an installation.Forest clearanceGetting forest clearance is the next major roadblock after land acquisition. Compliance of Schedule Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, obtaining FRA compliance certificate from District Collectors, forest clearance in common ROU, conducting Gram Sabha meetings at each village falling along the pipeline, obtaining minimum 50 per cent of voters consent from villages etc is cumbersome and time consuming.To make matters worse, an additional directive issued last year by the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MOEF) stipulates that for a project where both forest and non-forest lands are involved, no construction work can be started even in non-forest land pending approval of diversion of forest land for non-forest purpose.Further, as per last year’s MOEF directives, the application for diversion of forest land for non-forest purpose must be accompanied with geo-reference boundary of forest plot(s) in shape file. The application should also contain a digital map along with a hard copy authenticated by the competent authority in the state government of the forest land proposed for diversion prepared by using Total Station or differential GPS.The pipeline, being a linear project, involves isolated forest plots in a staggered way along the length of the pipeline route and it makes the process of DGPS survey a time consuming and cumbersome activity. Adding to the woes, projects already been processed with conventional survey methods and in final stages of clearance from the Forest Department are being again subjected to field survey using DGPS and authentication of maps from the authority designated for the purpose as well as the respective field offices of the Forest Department leading to abnormal delay in implementation of pipeline projects.Considering the fact that pipeline laying is a linear project and land is restored back to original condition after laying of pipeline, it could be differentiated from other projects and simultaneous process of obtaining forest clearance and starting the work in non-forest land should be allowed.Construction in forest areasIn order to minimise the effect of construction and to conserve the biodiversity of the forest area, certain rules have been laid down which include cutting/felling of trees as per guidelines of Forest Department, providing safe and unhindered passage of movement to wild animals, restricted working hours and/or adoption of specialised techniques.Equally important are the environmental issues like arranging water for construction and hydro test purpose, disposal of waste and waste water, noise and dust control, arranging sand for backfilling in pipeline trenches, disposal of surplus soil and restoration of fields to the satisfaction of all concerned. It would be ideal to deploy an environmental consultant at the project site.The author is General Manager, Paradip-Raipur-Ranchi Pipeline Project, Indian Oil Corporation Limited. With input from Janaki Krishnamoorthi.