The Tamil Nadu government on Monday formally opposed the Centre on its recent decision to amend the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, and exempt hydrocarbon projects from public consultations. In a letter, pointing at obvious gaps in the procedure, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding that status quo be maintained and that the Union government's decision be revoked.
On January 16, the Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change had amended the earlier notification of 2006. The amendment reclassified off-shore and on-shore oil and gas exploration projects as 'B2 projects’. These were earlier classified under category 'A'. The amendment meant that these projects no longer required public consultation.
The Chief Minister pointed out that due procedure was not followed by the Centre before this decision was taken.
"I would also like to inform that before the issue of Notification dated 16.1.2020, no draft notification was circulated, as mandated, and no opportunity was given to the stakeholders and to the state government to offer our views," said the letter.
"Considering these facts, I request that status quo ante may be maintained for Cauvery delta region, as it is an ecologically sensitive zone and necessary amendment may be issued to restore the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006… mandating prior Environmental Clearance and Public Consultation for “Off-shore and On-shore oil and gas exploration, development and production projects” and categorise them under “Category A” for Cauvery Delta area," he added.
He also reminded a previous communication, where strong opposition to these projects in the Delta region was discussed.
"I had written to the Honourable Minister of State, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India, highlighting the strong opposition to Hydrocarbon extraction projects in the delta area; the imperative need for adequate consultation with stakeholders and to ensure that the interests of farmers are fully safeguarded," he explained.
The Chief Minister further described the delta districts as an 'ecologically fragile zone'.
"I would like to bring to your kind notice that projects involving exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons have faced strong resistance from farmers/activists and other stakeholders in Tamil Nadu. Since most of these projects are situated in the Cauvery delta districts, which is ecologically a fragile zone, but a very fertile region and rice bowl of the state, the opposition to these projects has been emotive and intense," he stated.
“Therefore, it is very essential to take the people and all stakeholders along, while implementing these projects, so that their cooperation and involvement is ensured. The present notification goes against this spirit."