CHENNAI: Even as protests continue against hydrocarbon exploration and extraction project proposed at Neduvasal village in Pudukkottai district, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) on Monday said it was yet to receive any application seeking consent to establish (CoE) and said the contractor M/s Gem Laboratories, Bengaluru has to first obtain environmental clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) before making a request to the board.
Submitting a five-page reply before the southern bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT), comprising Justice MS Nambiar, Joint Chief Environmental Engineer K Gokuladas said that for starting any petroleum activity Gem Laboratories has to obtain transfer of requisite lease from the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) through the State government.
“Even after the grant of lease, to start any actual operations, i.e. exploration, production, drilling etc. contractor requires environmental clearance from MoEF&CC, which is granted after conducting public hearing. This project is in initial stage only. The company has to prepare a detailed plan for development of Oil and Gas fields for the Neduvasal block.
“As on date, no application was received from the proposed hydrocarbon exploration project. Hence, at present no further technical details regarding the proposed project are available with this office,” the official said in the reply, a copy of which is available with the Express.
When Express spoke to farmers who actually leased out their lands for drilling exploratory wells in different parts of Pudukkottai district, it is found that the farmers are not given a copy of the lease agreement. Sundar Rajan, an activist with the environmental organisation Poovulagin Nanbargal, says no one knows the content of the lease agreement in which farmers have signed. “It’s being kept discreet,” he said.
In Pudukkottai district, the ONGC has dug up 13 exploratory drilling wells in various locations. The details furnished by the ONGC in a letter dated March 3, 2017 say that among 13 wells, 10 wells were dry and abandoned, while the remaining one well at Neduvasal is classified as oil well and two wells at Vadatheru as gas wells.
Subramanian, a farmer from Neduvasal, who refused to give his land, said he was pressured a lot by the local district administration and ONGC officials to give away his land from 2013, but he refused and threatened to commit suicide. “I have only a small piece of land, which I cultivate taking loans and feed my 10-member family,” he said.
Reliable sources told this newspaper that an official delegation is expected to meet the protesting farmers on April 20 and hold talks.