The Tamil Nadu government published its declaration of delta regions as ‘Protected Agricultural Zone’ in its gazette after receiving Governor Banwarilal Purohit’s approval on Saturday (February 22).
It also revoked its 2017 announcement on Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemical Investment Region (PCPIR).
The move comes days after the state government passed a bill to protect the state’s delta regions, in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.
On February 9, while laying the foundation stone for a Livestock Research Centre in Salem, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami declared the Cauvery delta region a Protected Agricultural Zone. The zone covers the eight districts of Trichy, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Pudukkottai, Cuddalore, Karur, and Ariyalur.
Following that, on February 20, the state passed the Tamil Nadu Protected Agricultural Zone Development Bill, 2020.
The prohibition clause of the bill states that “no person shall undertake any new project or new activity specified in the Second Schedule in the protected agriculture zone.”
The Bill got the nod from the governor for its passage on February 21, following which the bill was published in the state’s gazette.
The state also passed a GO cancelling its 2017 order to delineate 45 villages of Cuddalore and Nagapattinam, the delta districts, for the proposed PCPIR.
The GO says, “The Director of Town and Country Planning has stated that a lot of objections have been received from the public, vehemently opposing exploration and extraction of Hydrocarbon and further demanding to declare the delta regions as ‘Ecologically Sensitive Agricultural Zone’. The Cauvery delta region comprises Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts and the delta blocks of Pudukkottai, Cuddalore, Trichy, Karur and Ariyalur districts are considered the rice bowl and granary of Tamil Nadu. At the same time it is an environmentally fragile and sensitive wetland and agricultural zone. Any further exploration and exploitation, apart from such activity which already exist, may be detrimental to the environment of the sensitive zone and therefore request the government that the earlier notification declaring the local planning area for constitution of PCPIR may be cancelled.”
“After careful examination, the government hereby cancels the notification,” the order said.
While welcoming the move, environmental activists demanded that the government cancel its plan to expand the CPCL petroleum refinery and set up a new refinery worth ₹50,000 crore by Kolkata-based Haldia Petrochemicals. The CPCL currently has a refining capacity of 1 million tonnes, which it plans to expand by 9 million tonnes in the future.