Anti-Methane Project Movement flays ONGC exploration move in Ariyalur

‘State govt. must bring eght districts under TN Protected Agricultural Zone Development Act,’

The Anti-Methane Project Movement on Wednesday condemned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation’s move to secure clearance from Tamil Nadu State Environment Impact Assessment Authority for 10 exploratory drilling wells in Ariyalur district.

The Movement urged the State government to convey its strong opposition to the Centre’s move by convening a Cabinet meeting to arrive at a policy decision to reject any such proposal.

ONGC sought clearance from the State authority under Central legislation that deemed public hearings as unnecessary for hydrocarbon exploration.

Such a move by ONGC within two days of Chief Minister M.K. Stalin’s letter to the Centre opposing exploration activities along the entire Cauvery river bed, with particular reference to Vadatheru in Pudukottai district, was condemnable, said T. Jayaraman, chief coordinator of Anti-Methane Project Movement.

The Directorate-General of Hydrocarbons must be asked to remove all Discovered Small Fields (DSF) of hydrocarbons in Tamil Nadu from its list. Further, the State government must bring Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Pudukottai, Cuddalore, Karur, Ariyalur and Tiruchi districts under the ambit of the Tamil Nadu Protected Agricultural Zone Development Act, 2020..

The Act recognised the entire Cauvery delta region — rice bowl of the State — as an ecologically fragile agricultural zone and hydrocarbon exploration would lead to hazards of climate change, rise in sea level and submergence of vast swathes of coastal land mass.

The Act, in its present form, prohibited new projects or new activities in the specified areas — Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore (Kattumannarkoil), Melbhuvanagiri, Keerapalayam, Paringipettai and Kumaratchi blocks) and Pudukottai (Aranthangi, Avudaiyarkoil, Manamelkudi, Tiruvarangulam and Karambakudi blocks). However, the prohibition would not affect activities or projects in operation in the areas for exploration, drilling and extraction of oil and natural gas including coal-bed methane, shale gas and other similar hydrocarbons.

The notification stated that certain industrial projects and activities in the Cauvery delta region would adversely affect the environment including depletion of ground water, sanctuaries, wet lands/ bio-diversity/over-sensitive areas of the region vulnerable to climate change, apart from causing threat to sustainable agricultural developments, livelihood and security of farmers and well being of the region.

Urging the State government to make sure that the already identified wells were also closed, alongside preventing new projects, Mr. Jayaraman said the Anti-Methane Project Movement would continue to play a pro-active role in preventing exploration activities in the Cauvery delta region as well as shallow waters of the sea that would destroy coral reefs and affect livelihood of fishermen.

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