DMK calls farmers’ agitation against Cauvery drilling plan

Arun Janardhanan
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Targeting the Centre and the ruling AIADMK, DMK chief M K Stalin has demanded that the government order be cancelled with immediate effect and that the state cabinet take a strong stand against the project.

Condemning the Centre’s recent order stating environmental clearance and public consultation is not mandatory for hydrocarbon projects, the DMK has called for protest rallies by farmers in five districts of the Cauvery Delta on January 28, demanding that the Centre declare the region a “protected zone”.

Known as the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu, the Cauvery region witnessed massive projects two years ago over the Centre’s decision to launch a hydrocarbon project in the region by drilling about 341 wells to hunt for hydrocarbon reserves.

Targeting the Centre and the ruling AIADMK, DMK chief M K Stalin has demanded that the government order be cancelled with immediate effect and that the state cabinet take a strong stand against the project. “The Centre’s decision is not only destroying the rice bowl but also plans to uproot the life of the agrarian community in the delta region. If the project is implemented, the delta region will see no agriculture production in the coming years,” Stalin said. The protest rallies are to be held in the five districts where the proposed wells are to be drilled.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami too has taken a strong stand in the matter by writing to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. He urged them to restore status quo to ensure prior environment clearance and public consultation is made mandatory for such projects.

Vedanta Limited and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Limited have been given preliminary sanction to carry out the drilling process. According to a top state government official, Vedanta plans to drill about 116 wells in Puducherry and Villupuram and 158 wells in Nagapattinam and Karaikkal at a cost of about Rs 13,000 crore.

Similarly, ONGC plans to drill 40 wells in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam and 27 in Cuddalore and Tiruvarur — in two different blocks — at a cost of about Rs 5,000 crore. A senior ONGC official said increase in consumption of petroleum products had necessitated the project.

A recent amendment to the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 states that obtaining environmental clearance and holding public consultations are not mandatory for “drilling in respect to off-shore and on-shore oil and gas exploration, development & production project”.