ONGC has proposed for exploratory drilling in five wells in the Krishna-Godavari basin.

Explainer Why shale gas exploration in Andhra Pradesh has run into troublePTI/Image for representation
news Environment Saturday, November 26, 2016 - 16:39

More than six months after state-owned ONGC announced that it would take up shale-gas exploration in the Krishna-Godavari basin, the plan has triggered fears that it could pose an ecological threat to south India’s rice bowl.         

 ONGC has proposed for exploratory drilling in five wells in the KG basin in East and West Godavari at a cost of Rs 217 crore, reported Economic Times.

 Quoting environmental experts, Times of India reported that the extraction of shale gas could “kill” the ecological balance of the region and could even trigger tremors. A public hearing will be held on December 6 at Bhimavaram in West Godavari to hear people’s views on the project.

 While it is the first time that shale gas exploration has been taken up in the KG basin, just why has it run into controversy? 

 Shale gas is natural gas that is trapped within shale formations, which are essentially fine-grained sedimentary rocks. The process of extracting shale gas from the rocks is known as hydraulic fracking.   

 What is fracking?

Hydro-fracking or hydraulic fracturing is a process in which huge amounts of water, chemicals and sand are drilled into the earth at high pressure to release to release the gas.  

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the process involves creating fractures in the rock formation to pump up the fuel. 

 Why fracking? 

India is the fourth largest energy consumer in the world, importing three-fourths of its oil requirements and nearly a third of its gas needs. Fracking would not only secure India’s energy needs but would reduce India’s dependence on oil exporting countries, and thereby bring down domestic cost. 

 Why is it a matter of concern?

Scientists and environmentalists warn of the potential consequences on the environment.

The process involves huge amounts of water, and as argued by Chandan Nandy in TOI, India cannot afford to waste such large quantities of water, that can otherwise be used for drinking or farming.  

Besides causing mild tremors in the region, fracking has in the past led to contamination of drinking water and soil with toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.  

 Fracking has been banned in France, Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland and in some states in the United States.