Months after the protests at Neduvasal in Pudukottai district over the hydrocarbon extraction project, the Union Environment Ministry has reportedly de-listed 23 onshore exploratory drilling wells of ONGC in the Cauvery Basin. This decision has been taken because the organisation failed to conduct the mandatory public hearing and also on charges of conflict of interest, reports The New Indian Express.
According to the report, these are exploratory drilling wells identified across Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai districts. The Environment Ministry had issued Terms of Reference (ToR) to ONGC for drilling these wells in three instalments but found serious procedural lapses in conducting public hearing in accordance of Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.
The ministry even reportedly pointed out the problems in the application for environment clearance but ONGC did not take the corrective measures, leading to the de-listing of the projects.
After ONGC's application to an Expert Committee came out in public domain, several environmentalists had pointed out that that oil explorer's claim of conducting a public hearing on July 10 was false. To make matters worse, documents accessed by TNM had shown that ONGC is even aiming to skip the public consultation process for drilling 21 exploratory wells across the state.
They claimed, in the application to the Expert Committee, that public hearing had been conducted in the areas before for existing wells and that the necessary precaution would be taken.
Pudukottaiās Neduvasal had witnessed largescale protests over the hydrocarbon project, that was approved by the Petroleum Ministry as part of its Discovered Small Fields Bid. On March 10, the 22-day long protest was called off temporarily in Pudukottai district after Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan assured protesters that further permission will not be granted to the project till the people are consulted.