Top executives from oil and gas producer ONGC sought to dispel doubts raised by protesting farmers in Tamil Nadu that the company was extracting shale gas or coal bed methane from Kathiramangalam village in Thanjavur district at a press conference here.
The officials, however, provided little data to disprove groundwater contamination at the controversial site of Kathiramangalam in Thanjavur. The company also blamed the villagers “incited by vested groups” for having delayed the closing of the well, which helped the oil to spread in the area. What could have been done in about half an hour, claims ONGC in a press statement, had been extended to several hours.
“ONGC’s operations spread over six decades co-existed with agriculture not only in Tamil Nadu but also in several delta regions in other parts of the country. False propaganda by vested interest groups, that oil and gas exploration activities will devastate the entire Cauvery Delta is ridiculous and baseless,” read a hand out to journalists.
After multiple local press conferences and statement, ONGC today organised a conference in Chennai in the face of continuing bad press fuelled by incessant social media campaigning by activists, who claim the water pumped out from hand-pumps and bore-pipes are “muddy” and sometimes smell of rotten eggs to indicate presence of hydrogen sulphide, an inference that hydrocarbons from the drilling site could have mixed with groundwater.
“How can oil and oil found below 2,000-2500 m pollute groundwater extracted at 50 m?” questioned VP Mahawar, Director-Onshore, ONGC. The company said the state public works department periodically tests samples from ONGC’s operational areas to detect contamination and their findings “corroborate” with their assertions that no natural resource has been polluted. The company also said there are no toxins used in the process of drilling the wells to lead to any groundwater contamination.
ONGC leases land to the tune of 5 acres for a well. It pays Rs 63,000 an acre for a paddy-field owner and Rs 72,000 for cane fields. The Company operates 183 oil wells in Tamil Nadu. It pumps out 13,000 litres of oil and 38,000 cubic metres of gas from the Kathiramangalam each day. The well has been in operation for the last eight years.
Officials pointed out that the extent of land impacted by the leak was under one acre, which saw about 2,000 litres of crude oil escape from a pipe of 4-inch diameter buried six feet under the ground. The landowner has been paid a compensation of Rs 59,000. Of the 36 lakh acres of arable land in the state, ONGC has taken over 1600 acres.
Tamil Nadu’s farmers, hit by a severe drought, have been protesting for many weeks now over efforts to set up a hydrocarbon extraction well in Neduvasal, Pudokottai district. Protests have also erupted at Kathiramangalam. Villagers have demanded closure of operations and immediate release of protesters who were arrested during the demonstrations.
Source Link – ET
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