CHENNAI: The southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday came down heavily on the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) for repeated lapses in prevention of oil leakages, which have become a matter of grave concern for farmers in the Cauvery delta region.
The green bench comprising judicial member K Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta has taken suo moto cognizance of the latest oil leakage incident from the ONGC pipeline in Erukkattur village in Tiruvarur based on an article published in The New Indian Express dated September 23.
The tribunal, while admitting the matter, has directed the Tiruvarur district collector and Tamil Nadu Pollution Board to submit independent reports, including action taken if any violation was committed. Also, it directed the authorities to assess the damage caused and quantum of environment compensation liable to be paid by ONGC.
The New Indian Express had reported that, on September 22 night, one acre with young samba paddy crop irrigated by Dhanasekaran from Erukkattur village got damaged due to a leak from the ONGC pipeline, which was laid underneath the field for transporting crude oil explored at the Kamalapuram oil well. The ONGC official had confirmed that it was pinhole leakage developed in one of the pipes taking crude oil from Kamalapuram oil well to the Early Production System (EPS) Kamalapuram.
However, ONGC counsel Kavitha Y claimed that ONGC officials were not aware of any such incident and there was 'no evidence'. She offered to submit an incident report with facts. But the bench refused to buy her argument and sought a detailed report from the Tiruvarur collector.
Justice K Ramakrishnan has in fact referred to a recent report of a joint committee appointed by the NGT highlighting that ONGC's measures to control incidents of oil leakages from the network of underground pipelines in the delta region of Tiruvarur district were inadequate.
The committee said the present method was not effective because the exact location of oil leak point was not able to be identified until its physical appearance in the topsoil. The committee suggested the periodic assessment of pipe integrity (including internal crack, corrosion and erosion) to be made at least once in five years, so that the status of the pipeline shall be known and accordingly replacement period for the pipe shall be decided.
Meanwhile, an expert appraisal committee of the Union Environment Ministry has granted three years environment clearance extension for ONGC for carrying out exploratory drilling in Cauvery basin. The clearance was obtained for exploratory drilling of 24 additional wells in "PEL Block L-II" encompassing the districts of Nagapattinam, Thanjavur and Tiruvarur by the ONGC in June 2013.
Out of the 24 wells, 17 exploratory wells have been drilled. Seven locations would not be drilled due to various reasons such as priority of drilling, resource allocations etc. ONGC filed for an extension in June this year and after careful consideration, it was granted by the committee on September 5.