NGT vacates stay on ONGC’s operations in Cauvery Delta

NGT vacates stay on ONGC’s operations in Cauvery Delta

The National Green Tribunal Southern Zonal Bench at Chennai has vacated the interim order issued against ONGC’s exploration in certain parts of the State, after both the companies has said that they are not involved in any Coal Bed Methane (CBM) gas project in the Cauvery Delta Basin.

The order comes in a petition filed by P R Pandian, general secretary, Tamizhaga Cauvery Farmers Association, seeking the Tribunal’s interevention on the alleged exploration activities of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd in the Cauvery Delta Basin, in Thanjavur and Thiruvarur districts, which are the agricultural areas in the State.

The petitioner sought an interim order restricting ONGCand GAIL from engaging in drilling and exploratory activities related to crude oil, natural gas and methane exploration. According to reports, the NGT restrained ONGC from exploration of methan gas project till Monday. It has also appointed poltician cum lawyer Vaiko to assist the Bench in the matter.

During the hearing on Monday, ONGC informed the Tribunal that there is no project like coal-methane in ONGC Cauvery Delta Basin either directly by ONGC or in partnership with other companies. Senior Counsel G Masilamani, appeared for the company said that it was only on the ground that the company is exploring CBM gas in the region, the Tribunal has passed the order and the ground itself is not true.

He added that following the order, ONGC was asked by the administration to stop its operations, which has affected its entire operations in the region. He said that the company has conducted 600 drillings, of which 200 wells are operational now and the contention of the petitioner is related to digging of 20 wells. According to an ONGC official, the company would have faced a loss of around Rs 1 crore every day owing to the non operation of the wells following the order.

The Tribunal Bench today said that it is not a fit case for the purpose of extending the interim order granted by the Tribunal in the order dated August 5, 2015 and vacated the order.

While the company alleged that the petitioner had malafide intentions in projecting CBM methane in its petition, Vaiko, who appeared to help the Tribunal in the matter said that the petitioner is genuine and he has reflected the general apprehension among the farmers in the region regarding a proposed CBM gas project. It may be noted that there was a proposal for CBM gas extraction in the region by Great Eastern Energy Corporation Ltd (GEECL), which was later dropped due to some contract related issues. He said that while the company’s proposal was stalled, there is still a fear in the region that another potential player, for instance, ONGC, might start the project.

ONGC noted the company was formed in 1956 and making rapid strides towards the growth and development of India and the company has discovered six out of seven oil and gas providing basis, adding 8.6 billion tonnes of oil and gas reserves. The company is recoverable reserve of 2 billion tonnes of oil equivalent, production over 1.22 million barrels per day contributes over 69 per cent of India’s domestic oil equivalent production.

In an affidavit filed by A Venkatesan, senior manager (legal), GAIL, the company denied the allegations and said that to its knowledge, no project for extraction of Methane Gas is being carried on by ONGC in Thiruvarur district and the GAIL is not involved in exploration and is only dealing with transportation of gas.

The matter has been posted for hearing next week.

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