The Union Petroleum Ministry has given the preliminary clearance to Vedanta group to drill wells in land in Villupuram in Tamil Nadu and off shore in the Bay of Bengal in the adjoining Karaikkal in Puducherry for extraction of hydrocarbon in the face of stiff resistance from delta farmers.
The Ministry on May 10 issued the standard terms of reference under the Environment Impact Assessment notification of 2016 to Cairn Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of the Vedanta group. While the ministry has given the approval to Vedanta to carry out environment assessment impact, it has not said anything about its other request for waiver of public hearing.
Sterlite which is owned by the Vedanta group is under shut-down for violation of environmental norms and has been in the eye of the storm since the death of 13 protestors in a police firing in Thoothukudi last year during an agitation against the plant.
Delta farmers stalled a similar ONGC project in Neduvasal in the region on the ground that drilling of deep bore wells on shore for oil and gas extraction will lead to depletion of ground water and seepage of sea water into fertile cultivable land. The farmers are again up in arms and the opposition is backing them.
Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin has said the Election Commission should revoke the project as the was approval given when the model code of conduct was in force . The last phase of polling for the Lok Sabha ended only on Sunday, May 12. The approval letter to Vedanta from the Ministry is dated May 10 .
In a statement, he said: “The permission to carry out exploration projects in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry should be put on hold until a new government is formed at the Centre”
If the BJP Government refuses to cancel the permission owing to its closeness to Vedanta, the Election Commission should intervene and revoke it.The AIADMK Government in Tamil Nadu should also write to the Centre to stop the project, he said.
Puducherry Congress Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy said the project in the Karaikkal enclave at the tail end of the delta region would be partly on land and partly at sea and it would affect agricultural land.”We will not allow the project and, if necessary, we will go to court”, he told reporters on Sunday.