How does the controversy affect DMK and AIADMK?

Explainer Decoding the methane exploration controversy in Cauvery delta
news TN2016 Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 15:55

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa attacked the DMK for allowing methane extraction in the rice-bowl region of Cauvery delta, at a rally in Thanjavur, ahead of the upcoming state elections. With just a week to go for the elections, the AIADMK has been using the methane exploration controversy as the central theme of their campaigning in the delta region. What is this controversy all about? How does the controversy affect DMK and AIADMK? The News Minute explains it to you...

What was the deal?

In July 2009, the UPA II government entered into a production-sharing agreement with Noida-based Great Eastern Energy Cooperation Ltd (GEECL). The agreement dealt with permission to extract methane gas, from the coal-beds of the Cauvery delta, using the hydraulic fracturing method. The DMK-government, which was in power in 2011, granted permission to the company to extract methane from the delta-region for four years.

Why was the exploration controversial?

The GEECL had received licenses from the then DMK government to extract methane in the delta region of Thanjavur and Thiruvarur districts, both occupying important positions in the rice bowl map of India, and Tamil Nadu in particular. Farmers, supported by environmentalists and sustainable development experts, protested against the proposal as it would result in industrial exploitation and affect agricultural activities thereby impacting their livelihood.

When did the protest against exploration grow louder?

By December 2011, Tamil Nadu had witnessed a change in government with AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa coming to power. Environmental activists along with farmers from the Cauvery region started staging public protests in the Thanjavur region during that time.

How did the Jayalalithaa government react?

While a Central government agreement allowed GEECL to extract methane from the 667-square kilometer stretch of Mannargudi region, the company was awaiting the State government’s go-ahead. Acceding to the request of activists to let the MoU signed by the DMK lapse and based on suggestions made by an expert committee, the Jayalalithaa government ordered GEECL to suspend all their activities in the delta region with immediate effect in October 2013.

Whose side did the political parties take?

The DMK-Congress alliance, which was in power at both the Centre and state were the parties that signed the deal, and were conspicuously silent on the issue when the protests were unfolding. The AIADMK took a pro-farmer stance while Vaiko’s MDMK was at the forefront campaigning against the project.


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