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Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited refinery at Tavsal, Maharastra, India


Ratnagiri along with Sindhudurg and Raigad are ecologically sensitive districts of Kokan. These three districts have been selected for 12 energy projects. Close proximity to the sea makes it a favourite destination for many power-projects based on imported coal. Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (HPCL), a state owned company is going to start a refinery project at Tavsal village in Ratnagiri district of Kokan region in Western Maharsahtra. The estimated cost of the oil refinery will be Rs. 40,000-crore. The company requires 4,000 hectares for their refinery having a capacity of nine-million-tonnes. However, the locals feel that the pollution from the projects will destroy marine life and hence disrupt their livelihood. Villagers of Tavsal, Katole and surrounding four villages, where the survey was carried out, believe that the pollution and effluents from the refinery will destroy their business of fishing and mango orchards. [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited refinery at Tavsal, Maharastra, India
State or province:Maharashtra
Location of conflict:Village-Tavsal, Guhagar; District- Ratnagiri
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Chemical industries
Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Chemical products
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

HPCL is facing huge space constraint with regard to expansion at its Mumbai refinery. Apart from facing space constraints, HPCL’s Mumbai refinery, with a capacity of 6.5 mtpa, is too old to be modernized. Hence, it decided in 2010 to set up a nine-million-tonne-per-annum (mtpa) refinery in Tavsal, Guhagar in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. The company needs 3,000 acres. It had earlier decided to set up a refinery at Lote Parshuram in Chiplun, Ratnagiri district, on 2,800 hectares, but later changed its plan and sought land in Tavsal. Engineers India Ltd (EIL) has already prepared a detailed feasibility report for the new refinery. [3]

Project area:4,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project6,408,000,000: (Rs.40000-crore)
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) from India
Engineers India Ltd (EIL) from India
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, Government of Maharashtra
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Local Villagers headed by Sadanand Pawar, former Economics professor and a local resident
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
The Konkan region of Maharashtra has witnessed a number of protests by local villagers over land acquisition by large power and petrochemical companies. Villagers have now started seeking divine intervention and some novel protest methods to help them fight against these companies. They are putting their faith on a newly found ally – the domestic goat. It is this humble animal that is now helping them ‘ward off companies. Villagers have the practice of gifting goats to the temples of the local goddesses. While gifting, the villagers invoke an incantation - against the companies and the locals, who assist them in land acquisitions. Once the goat is sanctified in this manner, it is allowed to roam freely in villages, where the project is proposed to be set up. The land, which has been traversed by the goats, cannot be sold to anybody. It evokes fear among the villagers and prevents them from selling their lands. Unlike the usual custom of slaughtering such goats and eating its meat as ‘prasad, these goats are protected by the villagers. They are seen as the messengers of the goddesses. Due to this unusual protest method, the HPCLs new refinery project at Tavsal village in Ratnagiri district has been stalled as the farmers are not even allowing land survey to be undertaken. Using goats as means for organising the villagers and putting up a fight with the companies is the brainchild of Sadanand Pawar, former Economics professor and local resident. Pawar also claims some impressive scalps using this method. In 2002, they have protested against Enron power project at Dabhol village in Ratnagiri. According to them they sought help from their goddess and gifted a goat to the temple. They got the result in the form of Enron filing for bankruptcy. Professor Sadanand Pawar said that People have criticised him for using the goat, and have accused him of spreading blind faith. But he defend himself that he believed that destroying environment by helping to set up environmentally harmful projects is a far more serious crime than this practice. According to them Konkan requires projects, which does not hurt the local ecosystem [4].
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
New legislation
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Proposal and development of alternatives:The villagers are not against development. Engineering, shipping, food processing or tourism-based industries can get land in the region. However, refinery or a thermal coal project is definitely not welcomed due to large-scale pollution [1]. Konkan region requires projects, which does not hurt the local ecosystem. People never oppose any of the railway and port projects or any agro processing projects, which were set up in Konkan but thermal, coal and nuclear power projects, they will definitely oppose [4].
Beside this the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report, submitted by ecologist Madhav Gadgil has recommended 'no new dams based on large-scale storage be permitted in ecologically sensitive zone 1 and no new polluting industries, including coal-based power plants, should be allowed in ESZ 1 and 2'. According to the panel, investigations in the plains and coastal tracts, with regard to the mining and related activities in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts suggested these were under severe environmental and social stress.
The panel recommended 'the current moratorium on new environmental clearances for mining, and red and orange category polluting industries and power plants in the plains and coastal tracts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts should be extended till satisfactory completion of a carrying capacity analysis. The moratorium may then be reviewed in light of the findings of the study'. The moratorium has been extended up to December 2012. And thus the project is stuck. Till the moratorium is removed, the project can not be started [3]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The process of land survey and acquisition was done without informing the villagers and local panchayat leaders. Survey work was carried out illegally by retired persons from the Revenue Department. Villagers were enraged by their presence, and filed complain against them at the local police station. A panchnama (legal document of evidence) has also been filed at the station. Land surveyors engaged by HPCL were handed over to the police for 'Illegally' carrying out survey of 4,000 hectares. Seeing the protest HPCL decided to increase compensation to the agitating villagers for their land. Permissions had been granted to HPCL, from the appropriate authority which will enable it to pay a higher compensation for the acquired land, than the current ready reckoner rate. It will help in countering the opposition it has been facing while acquiring land from the local farmers and other land holders [1]
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy
[click to view]

[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Report of The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel
[click to view]

[1] HPCL increases compensation for project affected Farmers
[click to view]

[2] 79 projects worth Rs.1.12 trillion stalled during September 2013 quarter
[click to view]

[3] HPCLs Rs 30k-cr plant stuck on Western Ghat moratorium
[click to view]

[4] Villagers use goats to keep power, petrochem firms away
[click to view]

HPCLS new refinery project gets a filip
[click to view]

HPCLs Rs 30k crore oil refinery project stuck on Western Ghat moratorium
[click to view]

HPCLs Rs 30k-cr plant stuck on Western Ghat moratorium
[click to view]

HPCL Puts Its Rs 30,000 Cr Maharashtra Refinery in Cold Storage
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Swapan Kumar Patra
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:982
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