How would you feel if oil pipelines run right below your house? Pipelines that could explode anytime.
Would you go to court if someone wants to rescue you from such a potentially dangerous situation. Well, some seem willing to court the risk in Ahmedabad, capital of the western Indian state of Gujarat.
As many as 40 buildings have been estimated to have come up in such a danger zone there. Worse more are coming up in the area.
While civic authorities seem to be turning a blind eye to the serious safety hazard, oil corporations say they can do pretty little to have the constructions removed from the danger zone.
Information obtained under the Right to Information Act reveal that Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC) and Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) have repeatedly sent notices to certain buildings under which pipelines are running.
ONGC pipelines carry crude oil from Ahmedabad to Koyali, while parallel pipelines of Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) carry refined oil back to Ahmedabad.
According to The Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines Act, 1962, once a pipeline is laid, construction of any building or planting a tree on the ground above it, 25 metres on either side of the pipeline, is prohibited.
This can prove to be dangerous, because the construction restricts access to the pipeline for doing repair work in case of leakages - scores have actually been reported in the past, it is said.
The Commission has issued notices to some big names in the city - Torrent Pharmaceuticals, Mardia Chemicals and Nirma industries, mercifully they have built only their farmhouses over their pipelines, not the chemical factories themselves.
Sources in ONGC say that civic authorities like Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA), in whose jurisdiction the pipeline network lies, do not bother to contact them when approving plans or permitting Building Use (BU) for these buildings.
The 1962 Act does not give ONGC or IOC the right of ownership of property. They only acquire Right of User (RoU) for the land to lay pipelines in, upon providing compensation to owner.
When someone seeks to construct anything on the land acquired by an oil firm, all that it can do is issue a notice to the "encroacher," but who can move civil courts on the issue.
And any ruling by a lower court can be challenged in a higher forum and so the show goes on.
Executive director of ONGC, B M Singh said a meeting with AUDA was slated for August 9.
"We are tired of giving notices to the owners of these buildings. They all go to court and cases drag on for years, little realizing they are sitting on a virtual tinderbox," he said.