Chief Minister M K Stalin on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cancel the Centre's invitation for bid to extract hydrocarbon in Tamil Nadu's Cauvery basin and strongly opposed such initiatives in the state. The Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has invited bids for development of oil and gas fields at Vadatheru in Pudukkottai district of Tamil Nadu, he said in a letter to Modi.This area falls under the Cauvery basin, a Protected Agricultural Zone (PAZ) and the bedrock of Tamil Nadu's food security and agro-based economy from time immemorial and this ecologically fragile zone supports the livelihood of millions of farmers and farm workers, he said.
On June 10, the Centre launched the Discovered Small Field (DSF) bid round-III for international competitive bidding and the virtual event saw more than 450 participants and the bidders would be able to submit their bids till 31 August 2021, according to the union government.
"Projects to extract hydrocarbons from the Cauvery basin have faced unanimous strident opposition from all stakeholders. The government of Tamil Nadu has consistently opposed hydrocarbon exploration and extraction projects in the Cauvery basin and neighboring districts, given the pivotal role played by the region in the agrarian economy," the CM wrote in the letter.
Last year, the state government declared the region a PAZ under the TN Protected Agricultural Zone Development Act, which prohibits any new exploration, drilling and extraction of oil and natural gas and other similar hydrocarbons, the Chief Minister pointed out.
It is unfortunate that the sentiments of the people, the probable ecological impact and the legal enactments by the state government have not been taken into account by the relevant authorities, Stalin said.
The calling of bids by the Centre has already ignited public agitation in Pudukkottai and neighbouring districts apprehending adverse consequences of hydrocarbon extraction in this agrarian region.
"My government is of the firm view that no new hydrocarbon projects should be taken up in the Cauvery basin and neighboring districts," he said adding this is to protect the interests of farmers and the fragile agro-ecology of the Cauvery basin. Moreover, any proposal for new extraction projects in the PAZ is in violation of the TN Protected Agricultural Zone Development Act, 2020, he said.
"In these circumstances, I urge you to immediately intervene and instruct the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to cancel the bid process for Vadatheru in Cauvery Basin," he added.
Stalin also requested Prime Minister Modi to instruct the Ministry to consult the state Government before bringing any area in Tamil Nadu for any auctions in future for hydrocarbon exploration and extraction.
In Tamil Nadu, almost all parties including the ruling DMK and main opposition AIADMK and farmers organisations are opposed to such projects and hydrocarbon exploration has also been a politically sensitive issue.
The round-III bid offers 32 contract areas and these fields are spread over nine sedimentary basins covering more than 13,000 square kilometres with Inplace Hydrocarbon estimated to be around 230 Million Metric Tonnes.