Once again, the protest against hydrocarbons exploration in Tamil Nadu’s Neduvasal village is grabbing media attention. Following the signing of contract by Government of India with GEM Laboratories on 27th March 2017, the local villagers have intensified their protest which started a few months ago.
Neduvasal Village and the DSF Bid 2016:
Neduvasal is a small yet fertile village of the Cauvery Delta Region located in Pudukkottai district of Tamil Nadu.
- Under the Discovered Small Fields (DSF) bidding round in 2016, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) awarded 31 mining leases across the state of Tamil Nadu. Contract signed with GEM Laboratories for Neduvasal Village is one of such mining leases.
- As per information provided by Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, contract area of Neduvasal along with other contract area in Karaikal, Puducherry have an in-place volume of four lakh thirty thousand metric tonnes of oil and oil equivalent gas.
Concerns of Local people in Neduvasal Village:
People of Neduvasal village are protesting as they fear following harmful side effects from exploration activities in their region:
- Plausible deterioration in soil condition of the region which may affect agriculture and related livelihoods
- Contamination of ground water table
- Health hazards from methane gas production
Justification offered by Central Government:
The Central Government has maintained a stance that similar projects are already operating in Tamil Nadu without causing any known problems. Thus, it believes that apprehensions of Neduvasal people are misplaced.
- However, Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas headed by Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan (Minister of State – Independent Charge), has issued statements to address the specific concerns of protestors:
- Exploration of Oil and Gas is a technology driven activity which is being carried out since long time across the world without harming the environment. The operators start the activity only after having environment impact assessment clearance. Even during the exploration activity they have to follow strict guidelines with regards to usage of operational land.
- As far as argument about deterioration of soil in the contract area is concerned, it is to be noted that drilling activity requires very less surface area. Thus it does not affect the farming area at large.
- Drilling for hydrocarbons is conducted in deeper part of the Earth. Therefore the concern about contamination of ground water table (which is mostly located at shallow depth) is also misplaced. Besides, the use of cement casing while drilling provides an added protection for ground water.
- Addressing the fears on methane gas posing as a health hazard, the Ministry said that Methane gas is being used as domestic fuel globally as piped natural gas (PNG).
On the brighter side, Ministry also highlighted the ensuing economic benefits from this project. It will not only create 500 direct jobs, but will also earn Rs. 40 crore royalty for Tamil Nadu.