The government of Tamil Nadu announced in the Assembly on July 3 that the hydrocarbon project would not be implemented in the state. This is the first time the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government has spoken out on the hydrocarbon project. The government was receiving severe criticism for not airing its views amidst widespread agitations from farmers, fishermen and the general public of the delta districts.
The issue was raised in the Assembly on Wednesday through a calling attention motion by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). But the session was marred by accusations and counter accusations by the treasury and opposition benches. The Minister of Mines and Minerals C V Shanmugam, leader and deputy leader of opposition M K Stalin and Durai Murugan were involved in an argument over the permission granted for hydrocarbon exploration. The DMK was in power when the permission for exploration was granted to ‘The Great Eastern Energy Corporation Limited’ in 2011.
The exploration of hydrocarbon was banned in the state by late Chief Minister J Jayalalitha in 2015, but the process of exploration and extraction by the Oil and Natural gas Corporation of India Limited (ONGC) continues in the state. Several incidents of damages to pipes carrying the crude oil were reported resulting in the damage to crops and water bodies since the last few years.
P Shanmugam, the general secretary of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) told NewsClick, “The AIKS wholeheartedly welcomes the government’s announcement against the implementation of the hydrocarbon project in the fertile lands of delta districts. The minister has also announced that permission for any kind of exploration will not be given in the state. At a time when the Union government continues to explore and extract hydrocarbon against the state government order during October 2015, the announcement has come as a big relief for the farmers.”
“The struggles of AIKS, many other farmers’ associations and the opposition parties have forced the government to take such a decision. We also demand that the government should announce the delta districts as ‘Protected Agricultural Zone’ so that the farmers who fear losing their lands are relieved and carry out farming peacefully,” he added.
Earlier, the ONGC and the Vedanta group were granted permission for further exploration reportedly using non-conventional methods in the delta districts. The hydrocarbon project has been facing strong opposition from farmers, fishermen community and environmentalists citing the adverse impact the project would have on the delta districts. Various organisations conducted a human chain on June 23 for about 600 km against the project. The ONGC sought permission for digging 104 more exploration wells during the last week of June in 5 delta districts amidst all these protests and several other campaigns.
The announcement of the state government that the project would be banned has brought some relief to the general public, the farmers in particular. But, the stand of the Union government in the issue is awaited, since there have been continuous claims that these projects are absolutely necessary for the energy security of the nation.
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