NAGAPATTINAM, TIRUCHY: In a move that is bound to trigger a fresh round of protests by farmers already reeling under drought, energy major ONGC has filed an application before the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) seeking environmental clearance to drill 110 new oil and gas wells across the Cauvery delta districts and Ramanathapuram.
According to the report submitted by Cauvery Asset of ONGC, a copy of which is available with Express, for availing the environmental clearance, the oil major has identified 15 blocks across Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, and Ramanathapuram districts. Through the 110 wells, spread over 932.11 sq.km, ONGC plans to extract 155 cubic meters of oil and 2.65 lakh cubic metres of natural gas a day respectively.
ONGC has informed the ministry that the 2 hectares required for each drilling site for exploration would be leased on the basis of Land Acquisition Act. Once exploration and production is complete, the sites would be returned to the owners in near original state.
Around 25 cubic meters of water a day is required at each of the 110 wells. Of the total requirement of the water per well, at least 15 cubic meters would be for cooling the drilling bit. Further, the report states that studies have been conducted and land area classified into nine categories namely Fallow land (21.32%), Cropland (20.09%), Barren (19.31%), and Plantation (16.32%), remaining belonging to marshy and built-up lands.
Provided the environmental clearance is sanctioned, drilling would be taken up in at least 15 villages. As information about ONGC’s plans spread, farmers and activists expressed strong criticism. Cauvery S Dhanapalan, general secretary, Cauvery Delta Farmers Protection Organisation, said, “Nagapattinam is already ruined by drought and no further oil wells should be allowed in the region. Due to the change in climatic conditions, farmers are the worst affected. Any further exploration and drilling near agricultural lands will aggravate our pain. ONGC must abandon its proposal.”
When contacted, ONGC Cauvery Asset officials maintained that the application with MoEF was two years old, AP Rajasekaran Chief Engineer (drilling), in-charge of Corporate Communications, ONGC Cauvery Asset, said, “ONGC Cauvery Asset proposed to drill 110 wells in four districts prior to 2015. We have not completed land acquisition and public hearing process so far. Two years ago, we applied with the MoEF seeking environmental clearance. We did not file any fresh application.”