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NGT directs State to clear air on shale gas exploration issue

Government has to take a stand on possible ONGC exploration on Cauvery delta by June 22; Officials say they only undertook seismic surveys which are harmless

Published: 01st June 2016 04:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st June 2016 10:06 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: The Southern Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday directed the State government to submit a report on its stand on the shale gas exploration allegedly done by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) in the Cauvery delta region.

The Bench comprising Justice P Jyothimani and expert member PS Rao said the government should clear the air whether it was in favour of the project or not.

If the government was for the project, then a detailed scientific study should be done to assess the feasibility and other environmental aspects.“The government should submit its reply in the next hearing posted on July 22,” the tribunal Bench said. 

The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko, who was appointed amicus curiae in the case, took strong exception to a bribery allegation made by the ONGC counsel against the petitioner PR Pandian, who is the president of Cauvery Vivasaigal Sangam. ONGC has, after the outcry, agreed to withdraw the remarks.

Meanwhile, the Thiruvarur district collector submitted an affidavit stating there was no application before him by the ONGC on shale gas exploration.

NGT.JPG 

Also, an ONGC official told Express that the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) had entrusted ONGC the job of research and development (R&D) to explore and assess the potential of shale gas in the sedimentary basins under its operation. Accordingly, in the Cauvery basin one location had been identified in Kuthalam area for first study.

“We are yet to receive environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) for drilling in this location. After it is received, the Tamil Nadu government will be approached for necessary clearances,” the official said.

He added that ONGC was at present carrying out only geophysical or seismic surveys in Thiruvarur for oil exploration. These did not cause any harm.

However, the petitioner’s counsel Siva Rajasekaran said the company tried to obtain environmental clearances from MoEF&CC submitting false information.

In one of the forms submitted, the ONGC stated that there was no farm activity in the Cauvery basin, which was shocking.

Also, the company wrote a letter to the environment ministry seeking to amend the terms of reference for public hearing on exploratory drilling for Block LI PML in 35 locations in the Cauvery basin as an expansion project.

The proposed locations are in Ariyalur, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Tanjavur and Thiruvarur districts.

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