As the people’s protest against the hydrocarbon project entered its ninth day, shops and commercial establishments in Vedaranyam in Nagapattinam district downed their shutters on Saturday.
According to reports, around 200 people, including women and children from Kariyapattinam, have been on a sit-in strike seeking that the central government drop the exploratory project. They have alleged that the exploration would kill the fertility of their agricultural lands and the place will soon turn into a desert.
In October, the central government-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Vedanta Limited were granted permission to extract hydrocarbon in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts, respectively. Both these districts form a part of the fertile Cauvery-delta basin. While three off-shore locations have been allocated to Vedanta in Nagapattinam, ONGC is tasked to do the same in Chidambaram.
The signing of contracts between the government and the companies had sparked off protests in the delta region as the farmers stated that the central government was going forward awarding these contracts without consulting the local people.
It was in a similar controversy that Neduvasal, in Pudukottai district, was proposed as a site for an oil and gas exploratory extraction project in 2017. However, prolonged protests by the people living in and around Neduvasal, which also forms a part of the Cauvery delta, led to the withdrawal of the proposal by the Bengaluru-based GEM Laboratories Private Limited. The chemical manufacturing company had won the contract to extract hydrocarbon in the region
The new policy of Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) effectively replaced the New Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP) which was in place for 18 years. According to HELP, licenses given under it would cover all kinds of hydrocarbons, which is quite opposite to what was under NELP. Under NELP, the companies which seek to explore hydrocarbons must obtain separate licenses for each type of hydrocarbon they seek to explore including crude oil, gas and coal bed methane.