NAGAPATTINAM: The signing of contracts on Monday between the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and six companies to explore and extract hydrocarbons in the country, including in Tamil Nadu, triggered protests in Nagapattinam. Protesters voiced fear about loss of agricultural land if the project is implemented.
The Cauvery Farmers Protection Committee led by Cauvery V Dhanapalan staged a mock suicide protest in Nagapattinam. Addressing media, Dhanapalan said, “The government is shoving hydrocarbon exploration down the throats of farmers by putting forward the number of gas cylinder connections. The extraction of hydrocarbons will destroy agriculture in the delta districts and the government is making these moves without consulting the local people.”
The ‘Revenue Sharing Contract Signing Event’ took place in New Delhi for 55 exploration blocks spread across 11 sedimentary basins in India post the conclusion of the Open Acreage Licensing Policy Bid under the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy. According to media reports, three places in Tamil Nadu have been earmarked for exploration. Of the three blocks, two are allotted to Vedanta Limited and one to ONGC.
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi on Monday, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan did not mention or clarify the exact locations of the blocks where exploration would take place. He stated Nagapattinam would be an ‘onshore block’ and disputes do not happen in offshore blocks, a contradictory response. Offshore drilling relates to drilling on the seabed in coastal areas and onshore drilling refers to drilling deep in the earth’s surface.
In Kameshwaram in Keezhaiyur block, cadre of Mukkulathor Puligal Amaipu raised slogans against corporates and burnt an effigy of Pradhan. No arrests were made. A few black flag and mourning protests were also held in Keezhaiyur.
The Anti-Methane Project Movement also opposed the projects in Tamil Nadu. The group suspects two places have been targetted near Nagapattinam and Karaikal. “The projects planned in Nagapattinam are many times larger than in Neduvasal. People’s opinions were not sought and the Ministry signed the contract without any site visits or speaking to the people here,” said Professor ‘Methane’ T Jayaraman, the movement’s coordinator, addressing a press meet in Mayiladuthurai.
Black flag to Governor
The Tamilaga Cauvery Vivasayigal Sangam has decided to show black flags to the Governor, who would be visiting Tiruvarur on October 3. At a meeting of the office bearers of the association from Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts held in Tiruvarur on Monday with P R Pandian, the general secretary of the association in chair, has passed a resolution to this effect.
Talking to reporters, P R Pandian said the CBM project with Mannargudi at its centre was scrapped by former CM J Jayalalithaa after farmers opposed it. Similarly the hydrocarbon exploration at Neduvasal was put on hold after a sustained struggle by the farmers.
Now the Centre had entered into agreement with Vedanta and ONGC to explore hydrocarbon from Cauvery basin. As a mark of protest, the farmers would show black flag to Governor of Tamil Nadu, the direct representative of the Union government, when he visits Tiruvarur on Wednesday. The protest would be held near Vilamal bridge Pandian added.