PUDUKKOTTAI : Soil or oil? This is the question that villagers of Neduvasal faces as buzz over hydrocarbon project grows stronger with each passing day. A ‘yes’ to oil would bring in growth of a different kind. But it would also mean uncertainty.
Farmers here are certain about the strength of their soil and its ability to sustain them. But they are still not certain how oil extraction will not affect their agricultural fields.
The primary responsibility of a farmer is not just to post bumper yield, but to preserve and nourish fertility of the land that gives him everything. The residents of Neduvasal and adjoining villages have managed to achieve this over the years.
Green is the colour
Situated in Pudukkottai, Neduvasal lies close to Pattukkottai and Peravoorani in Thanjavur district. Spread over 668 hectares, 70 per cent of land in the village is earmarked for agriculture. The only difference between Neduvasal and other villages falling under Alangudi taluk is its lush greenery.
T Kandavel, a farmer in Neduvasal, proudly says, Ithu Muppogam Vilayura Boomi (This is land that cultivates three terms a year). “Be it Samba (long term), Kuruvai (short term), or Thalady (intermediate), one can see lands with crops,” he says.
With no river or major tributary passing through the region, Neduvasal and adjoining Vadakadu and Nallandarkollai depend on rain and groundwater. Almost every household has invested on a borewell.
Speaking to Express, a senior Agriculture Department official said, “Even if monsoon fails, people in Neduvasal and villages adjoining Alangudi can be seen cultivating the whole year.”
A comparative analysis would tell one about the soil here. Take the case of Thiruvalarcholai near Kollidam in Tiruchy. Despite its proximity to the Cauvery, there are vast tracts of barren land. But not in Neduvasal.
Neduvasal fares marginally well than the rest of Pudukkottai in terms of yield.
The average paddy yield for the district is 2,153 kg per acre, according to Agriculture Department sources. But the farmers in Neduvasal posted an average yield of 2,170 kg per acre this Samba season, despite drought-like situation.
Not lured by offers
Farmers who sold or leased their lands to ONGC allege that they were lured into doing so, with the assurance that they were being acquired only for kerosene exploration.
But C Subramanian is an exception. In fact, he is the hero of his fellow farmers, having stood up against the ONGC. For those protesting now, the gravity of the situation dawned upon them only after February 15, when the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs awarded as many as 31 Discovered Small Field contracts for hydrocarbon exploration.
“The officials from the ONGC came to survey my field in 2013. When I enquired, they replied that kerosene reserve has been found in four acres of my land. Since then, the ONGC has been requesting me to hand over my land. But I refused to budge,” says the 67-year-old farmer.
There are farmers who got paddy yield of 2,300 to 2,600 kg per acre, despite monsoon failure. “We don’t have canal based irrigation system. We are not against governments or projects, we just don’t want a risky project bang in the midst of a fertile patch,” says Subramanian. And that is the crux of the protest.