Vedanta gets Centre’s nod to hold assessment for TN hydrocarbon project

Updated 7:13 PM, 11 May, 2019
ONGC produced 21.11 million tonnes of oil in the fiscal year ended March 31 (2018-19). Representational image/Pixabay.

In a new development, the Centre granted Terms of Reference (TOR) to Vedanta Limited, to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a hydrocarbon project in the areas spread across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, on Saturday (May 11).

In 2018, the Centre signed a contract with Vedanta and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), to carry out hydrocarbon exploration in the Cauvery delta region. The government gave permission to Vedanta to dig 274 exploration wells, and an approval of 67 wells for ONGC.

The project has been facing stiff opposition, ever since the proposal became public in 2017. Farmers from districts like Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai, Nagapattinam, Villupuram and Cuddalore staged protests, saying that the project would mean a death blow to them, since the exploration wells would be in their cultivable farm lands.

Area off the Tamil Nadu coast, where the exploration wells are expected to be sunk. Source: Project feasibility report via Twitter

Due to the protests followed by the Lok Sabha elections, the issue receded into the background. However, in April this year, both companies had written to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), seeking permission to conduct EIA study in their allocated areas.

While, ONGC was granted TOR later in the month, Vedanta was given permission on May 11. Vedanta will conduct the EIA study for 116 wells, in the first phase. The study area is in Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry.

In Villupuram, the study will be carried out in the land side covering 139 sqkm. In Puducherry, the study will cover both land (2 sqkm) and shallow water sea region of the Bay of Bengal (1,654 sqkm).

Opposing the Centre’s move, the Tamil Nadu Farmers Association has decided to go on protests from June 1, in the Delta region of the state.

Speaking to The Federal, Dr R Bharathi Selvan, one of the activists of Anti-Methane Project Federation, said that the Tamil Nadu government should stick to the decision taken by the former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who scrapped it by issuing a Government Order.

“On October 8, 2015, she ordered to stop the coal bed Methane project of Great Eastern Energy Corporation Limited. The present government should follow in her footsteps. They must take a policy-level decision to stop this anti-people project. The government should announce Delta region as a ‘protected agricultural zone’, in order to save the farmers,” he said.

Professor T Jayaraman, chief coordinator of the federation, pointed out that both companies didn’t conduct public hearings with the parties concerned. He also added that Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy has assured them that he would oppose the project in the Union Territory.  He said, “We expect the same concern from the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. We will stage demonstrations and protests in the study areas of both companies.”