Centre nod to Vedanta EIA for oil exploration
Cairn Oil & Gas, an arm of non-resident Indian businessman Anil Agarwal’s London-based resources company Vedanta, has secured the Centre’s approval to proceed with an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for oil and gas exploration at 116 sites in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. In a communication sent to Vedanta on Friday, the Union ministry of environment said it had cleared the proposed EIA for both offshore and onshore exploration in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Puducherry.
Puducherry chief Minister V Narayanasamy on Saturday said the Congress government of the Union Territory will not allow Vedanta to carry out the exercise. “We will not allow any work by Vedanta which is bound to affect the people and agriculture as well as coastal fishing besides the environment,” Narayanasamy told reporters. According to the proposal submitted by Vedanta, the EIA would require appraisal drilling and seismic survey of an exploration block covering 1,794 sq km along the Bay of Bengal. Of this, the area in Puducherry accounts for only 2 sq km and the sea portion is spread over 1,654 sq km.
This development comes in the backdrop of a backlash against Vedanta in Tamil Nadu, where its copper smelter, Sterlite, in Thoothukudi has been closed since May 2018 over alleged environmental pollution caused by the plant. State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation has been facing resistance to its exploration activities in the Cauvery delta, which covers 1.1 million hectares of fertile agricultural land. Farmers in the region are apprehensive about losing their livelihood. In Neduvasal, Pudukottai districst, hydrocarbon exploration has been suspended following a prolonged agitation by the locals. In both instances, opposition parties backed the agitations.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and other opposition parties have said they would halt oil and gas explorations in Tamil Nadu in their manifestos for the Lok Sabha polls. OS Manian, Tamil Nadu minister for handlooms and a veteran of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, said: “It has been our consistent stand not to allow any project that is detrimental to people’s livelihood and the environment...”.
In its communiqué to Vedanta, the environment ministry listed 32 conditions which the company has to meet. The clearance for the EIA comes a month after Vedanta submitted a proposal on April 5. A memorandum on the project was signed in October. S Ramadoss, a senior functionary of the Tamilaga Cauvery Farmers’ Association, said: “Allowing Vedanta to carry out exploration for gas and oil would affect the fragile coastal ecology and environment...”.
(Source: Hindustan times 12-05-19)