Tamil Nadu refuses ONGC permission to drill oil wells in two districts

Industries minister Thangam Thennarasu said the government will not allow new ONGC projects in districts covered under the Tamil Nadu Protected Agricultural Zone Development Act, 2020.

The Tamil Nadu government Tuesday said its Environment Impact Assessment Authority (TNSEIAA) has rejected ONGC’s application to drill and explore 10 oil wells in Ariyalur and five wells in Cuddalore districts.

Speaking in the state Assembly, Industries minister Thangam Thennarasu said the government will not allow new ONGC projects in districts covered under the Tamil Nadu Protected Agricultural Zone Development Act, 2020, and added that a committee will be constituted to analyse the damage caused by hydrocarbon projects in other districts of the state.

In the letter written to ONGC on June 21, TNSEIAA said they declined the clearance as the proponent failed to provide details on the proposed projects.

The letter said that the proponent has not furnished details of clearances for forests land use and for land use conversion orders for industrial purposes. It also said that study reports on the impact on the marine ecosystem and fish movement, flora and fauna and migratory birds movement has not been provided.

In addition, a study report and a project model for seismic impact in a 10 km radius of drilling activities had not been given.

“Data from CWGA (Central Ground Water Authority) regarding the aquifer details at different depths and water profile around each core holes has not been furnished,” the letter added.

A few days ago, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) wrote to SEIAA seeking clearance for the wells despite opposition from locals and even Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin to an earlier similar proposal.

The Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas had earlier invited bids for the development of oil and gas fields at Vadatheru, near Pudukkotai. Several farmers had protested against this, prompting Stalin to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to inform the ministry to cancel the bidding process for Vadatheru.

Stalin had said his government is of the view that no new hydrocarbon project should be taken up in the Cauvery basin and other neighbouring districts, to protect the livelihood of farmers and the agro-ecology of the basin.

“Any such proposal for new extraction in the protected agricultural zone is in violation of the Tamil Nadu Protected Agricultural Zone Development Act, 2020,” Stalin had said.

He further asked the PM to instruct the ministry to consult the state before bringing any area in Tamil Nadu for auctions for hydrocarbon exploration and extraction.

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