The hydrocarbon projects, proposed in 4 locations of Tamil Nadu and in 2 locations in Puducherry, have faced several protests from local residents.

Vedanta ONGC seek clearance to conduct study for hydrocarbon project in Cauvery basinImage for representation/Nityanand Jayaraman
news Environment Thursday, April 11, 2019 - 13:28

Two companies – Vedanta Limited and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) – have written to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) seeking its approval to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment study for setting up hydrocarbon wells in Cauvery bed in Tamil Nadu. The hydrocarbon projects, proposed in four locations of Tamil Nadu and in 2 locations in Puducherry, have faced several protests from local residents who state that this may impact the groundwater table in the area.

The letters written by Vedanta and ONGC have sought permission to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study in the area which has been allotted to them to find out whether the project will impact the environment around. The EIA report is mandatory to apply for an Environmental Clearance and the clearance under the Coastal Regulatory Zone rules.

While ONGC has requested granting approval for the Terms of Reference for the EIA study, Vedanta has also requested the Ministry for an exemption from conducting a public hearing in the areas where its exploratory projects are to come up.

“Considering the project activities falling major area in offshore and the temporary and short term nature of the proposed project activities, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) is requested for Exemption of the public hearing,” reads the request letter sent by Vedanta to the MoEFCC.

The government of India had signed contracts with Vedanta and INGC in October 2018 to carry out hydrocarbon exploration on around 6,000 square kilometres of the Cauvery delta region in Tamil Nadu. Based on the contract, Vedanta was granted permission to set up 274 hydrocarbon wells and ONGC was allotted 67 wells to conduct exploration.

The exploratory wells by both the companies will come up in the districts of Nagapattinam, Villupuram, Cuddalore and Thiruvarur in Tamil Nadu and Karaikkal and Puducherry districts of the Union Territory. While ONGC will set up hydrocarbon wells in Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Bhuvanagiri and Thiruvarur at an outlay of Rs 5,150 crore, Vedanta will set up wells in Villupuram and Nagapattinam apart from the shallow waters of the Bay of Bengal at a cost of Rs 13,550 crore.

The proposed hydrocarbon project has triggered a lot of protests over the past few years in Neduvasal with the farmers refusing to allow the project claiming that this would dry up the groundwater table in the region adversely affecting their livelihood. Last month, in Vedaranyam in Nagapattinam district, one of the proposed locations, 200 people staged a 9-day sit-in seeking that the central government drop the exploratory project, alleging that the exploration would kill the fertility of their agricultural lands and the place will soon turn into a desert.

All the major political parties of Tamil Nadu have resolved to announce the Cauvery delta region as a Protected Agricultural Zone if they win the elections in April.

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