The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India (ONGC) has sought environmental clearance for digging 104 more wells to extract hydrocarbon in five different districts of Tamil Nadu. The letter seeking permission was apparently prepared on June 18. The move seeking environmental clearance comes at a time when the opposition against the hydrocarbon project is on the rise.
The letter addressed to the Member Secretary, Industrial Projects – II, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has sought environment clearance to explore the presence of hydrocarbon in 104 locations across Nagapattinam (15), Thiruvarur (59), Thanjavore (17), Ariyalur (3), Ramanathapuram (3) and Cuddalore (7) districts. The estimated cost for each well is said to be Rs 15 crore, summing up to Rs 1,560 crores.
The ONGC is planning to lease land to the tune of 176 hectares including farm and bare lands in all of these locations. The move has come as a shocker to the farming community as they continue to get affected by the hydrocarbon exploration project in the region. The farmers of the region have alleged that the fertility of the land has been severely affected and the ground water has also been contaminated due to the continuous leakage from the ONGC pipes.
The Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy has been voicing the opposition to the project. The area proposed for exploration is 2 sq km in Puducherry and 39 sq km in Kairaikal district, while the area under threat is very huge. But the government of Tamil Nadu continues to remain silent on the issue. The silence of the government has further angered the farmers and the environmentalists.
The general secretary of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Vaiko, in a statement, has condemned the move. The statement also warns the union and state governments of intense protest, if both the governments continue to impose the project against the will of the people. The party has also demanded that the delta region should be announced as a ‘Protected Agriculture Zone’. The permission granted for Vedanta group in the exploration process has also been criticised by the party in the statement.
Various environmentalists and civil right organisations have condemned the move of ONGC at a time when the people are apprehensive of the project being implemented on a large scale.
On Sunday, the opposition parties and various farmers’ organisations formed a human chain of around 600 kilometres length from Marakkanam of Vizhuppuram district to Rameshwaram of Ramanathapuram district. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Democratic Youth Federation of India had conducted a month-long campaign about the negative impact of the hydrocarbon project in all the delta districts with the state police denying permission for even the mass contact program.
The silence of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government led by their twin leaders Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam continue to raise eyebrows among all quarters. The Union government, in spite of severe opposition, continues to turn a blind eye and continues to claim that such projects are aimed at reducing the oil import. The fact remains that the rice bowl of the state of Tamil Nadu continues will suffer due to such policies implemented by the governments.