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Oil spill by ONGC , Kathiramnagalam, Cauvery delta, TN, India


Description

In Kathiramangalam, a village in Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district in the Cauvery delta, villagers and activists have been protesting Oil and Natural Gas Company (ONGC)’s activities. The Company has obtained 700 oil wells in Tamil Nadu and operates 183 of them. The well in Kathiramangalam has been in operation since 2002 and it pumps out 13,000 litres of oil and 38,000 cubic metres of gas each day. 

According to the villagers who are mainly farmers, these wells have been contaminating and depleting the groundwater. This comes at a time when Tamil Nadu is facing its worst drought in 140 years. 

At the start of 2017, ONGC officials wanted to change the bore-wells, making it further deeper overnight. Villagers protested this act. 1000 police officials were deployed and the pipes were changed. Locals allege the probability of Coal Bed Methane mining occurring. 

The protest was intensified by an oil spill that occurred on June 30, 2017. Officials claimed about 2,000 litres of crude oil escaped from a pipe of 4-inch diameter buried six feet under the ground. Examination of soil, groundwater and surface water samples from Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam revealed that hydrocarbon operations by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited are harming the environment, the Coastal Resource Centre said. It added that its studies had confirmed that the ONGC had not employed the best international practices while responding to the oil spill in Kathiramangalam on June 30., 2917 (Scroll.in, 9/8/17).

Villagers refused to allow ONGC officials to fix the leak which led to a fire in the field. The police in return lathi-charged protesters, arrested 10 people and booked them for sedition and under the Goondas act. The state’s chief minister justified this action and threatened protestors. Few went on a hunger strike demanding the release of those arrested. Around 200 residents resorted to a novel protest by setting up a community kitchen in the open yard of a temple in the village and used firewood for the same instead of LPG supplied by ONGC. Over 3,000 shops were closed in Kumbakonam and adjacent towns in support of Kathiramangalam residents.

The land owner of where the spill occurred had been paid a compensation of Rs 59,000 but the site is yet to be cleaned and officials told the owner to clean it himself. The returned land is most likely no longer suitable for cultivation. Last year a resident’s land of one acre was returned. He wrote to ONGC asking for reports on the condition of water and soil but received no response. He later did a soil test through the Tamil Nadu agricultural department and the results showed his land is no longer suitable for paddy, the primary crop in the region.

Villagers claim the contaminated groundwater is affecting their children and cattle causing skin diseases, fever and even cancer. 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. 

The oil spill has reportedly led to spread of contamination to public water courses and the Velloor irrigation canal. Samples were collected from the epicentre of the leak and from 50 feet away from the spill. The soil taken 50 feet away was mixed with rain water and contained 438 mg/kg of TPH and the soil from the epicentre contained 1118 mg/kg. Seven samples were collected from areas where ONGC operations were underway or abandoned. They were tested in CVR laboratories, a private centre approved by the government. All seven samples – including four soil, two surface water and one groundwater – are contaminated by hydrocarbons linked to oil extraction or refining. There is also a risk of produced water leaking out of the pipes. Produced water is highly saline and corrosive. It contains hydrocarbons like the toxic benzene, xylene, toluene and polycyclic aromatics, sulphurous gases such as hydrogen sulphide. To the farmer who tills that land, the soil is dead and will yield nothing

The company has completely denied the contamination happening. According to them extracting oil found below 2,000-2500 m cannot pollute groundwater extracted at 50 m. 

Forty five days after this leak, another leak occurred in a nearby pipeline, in Nagapattinam district. According to villagers, this is the fourth time that pipeline, which is below an irrigation canal, has leaked. ONGC officials did not arrive to fix the pipeline for six hours. 

Local organisations also fear exploration of Shale gas taking place that is very harmful for the region. While the company denies it, the website of the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons states having identified and initiated exploration in Kathiramangalam. 

In response to these protests, a series of videos were made by ONGC to protect their image. The videos are staged such that the company has been helping the village economically and expects residents to be grateful for the oil, petroleum and natural gas that they receive. They have also been dubbing the ongoing protests by people against its oil exploration project as being carried out by 'vested interest groups' and urging people to not be misled by rumours. 

While, ONGC has not withdrawn activities in the area and exploration continues, protests are still on. 

Further ONGC has filed an application with the union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) for environmental clearance to drill 110 new oil and gas wells across the Cauvery delta and Ramanathapuram. And Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami announced a 23,000 hectares Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR) which is spread over 45 villages in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts.

Basic Data

NameOil spill by ONGC , Kathiramnagalam, Cauvery delta, TN, India
CountryIndia
ProvinceTamil Nadu
SiteKathiramangalam
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsONGC has been exploring the Cauvery basin since 1958. It leases land to the tune of 5 acres for a well, paying Rs 63,000 for an acre of a paddy-field and Rs 72,000 for cane fields. The Company operates 183 oil wells in Tamil Nadu. the Kuthalam-7 is an oil and gas well drilled by ONGC in the year 2000. The well is connected to the nearby Kuthalam-GCS installation. 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. ONGC did not have the Environmental Impact Assessment ready to offer to the public, even 20 days after the leak.

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. The company acknowledged through director V P Mahawar that "two thousand litres of crude oil and 18,000 cubic metres of gas leaked out of the well". At a press briefing, ONGC officials said that the company doesn't have methane, shale gas operations in Tamil Nadu. Its operations do not pollute groundwater or agriculture, according to them.

Alongside this, as of 13.08.2017, the website of the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons mentions an identification and initiation of exploration activities for Shale Gas & Oil in 50 nomination blocks, which includes Kathiramangalam. The protests were violently repressed, with hundreds of arrests and lathi-charges. Following the protests, ONGC filed a complaint with the Pandanallur police against the villagers for preventing them from doing their duty. Ten people were remanded in judicial custody for 15 days following the protests, including chief coordinator of the Anti-Methane Project Federation T Jayaraman. (Times of India 3 July 2017)
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population2,000
Start Date30/06/2017
Company Names or State EnterprisesOil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) from India
Relevant government actorsDirectorate General of Hydrocarbons
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAnti-methane project

The Coastal Resource Centre

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBoycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Temporary boycott of company products. The police lathi-charged protesters, arrested 10 people and booked them for sedition and under the Goondas act. The state’s chief minister justified this action and threatened protestors. Few went on a hunger strike demanding the release of those arrested. Around 200 residents resorted to a novel protest by setting up a community kitchen in the open yard of a temple in the village and used firewood for the same instead of LPG supplied by ONGC. Over 3,000 shops were closed in Kumbakonam and adjacent towns in support of Kathiramangalam residents.

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Criminalization of activists
Repression
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Exploration still continues in the region. People are already against the Neduvasal hydrocarbon project and Kathiramangalam crude oil project. Meanwhile, the setting up of 110 wells has been proposed by the ONGC.

Sources and Materials

Links

Novel protest against ONGC in Kathiramangalam village of TN
http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2017/jul/12/novel-protest-against-ongc-in-kathiramangalam-village-of-tn-1627725.html

Incited locals obstructed damage control in Kathiramangalam oil leak: ONGC
economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/59666559.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

Why is Tamil Nadu’s Cauvery Delta fighting against ONGC?
https://www.livemint.com/Industry/MbvHoqIMh45Kxc05pbM1nK/Why-is-Tamil-Nadus-Cauvery-Delta-fighting-against-ONGC.html

Two pipeline leaks in 45 days. What is ONGC doing?
http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/two-pipeline-leaks-45-days-what-ongc-doing-66741

Hydrocarbon activities have harmed delta environment scientific analysis reveals
https://coastalresourcecentre.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/hydrocarbon-activities-have-harmed-delta-environment-scientific-analysis-reveals/

Water and soil contaminated by ONGC hydrocarbons in Tamil-Nadu
http://www.livemint.com/Politics/HY4XTZwzeOGm57lSK6IGbO/Water-soil-contaminated-by-ONGC-hydrocarbons-in-Tamil-Nadu.html

Tamil Nadu unleashing police force as public protests grow
http://www.livemint.com/Politics/NHE8PzJXmg8L9Fq159HroO/Tamil-Nadu-unleashing-police-force-as-public-protests-grow.html

Groundwater and soil contaminated say activists, Tests confirm what ONGC has been denying
http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/groundwater-and-soil-contaminated-say-activists-tests-confirm-what-ongc-has-been-denying

Facing protests, ONGC decides to brazen it out with a message to be grateful
http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/facing-protests-ongc-decides-brazen-it-out-tn-message-be-grateful-66107

All you need know about Tamil Nadu's petrochemical hub and how it could affect you
http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/all-you-need-know-about-tn-s-petrochemical-hub-and-how-it-could-affect-you-65854

Media Links

TOI (Times of India) Kathiramangalam oil leak: ONGC says TN village’s water woes are caused by drought, not by oil. Pradeep Kumar. Jul 3, 2017
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/kathiramangalam-oil-leak-ongc-says-tn-villages-water-woes-are-caused-by-drought-not-by-oil/articleshow/59425481.cms

9 August 2017. Scroll Staff. Environmental pollution.

Oil spill from ONGC well on June 30 contaminated the soil and water in Kathiramangalam, says report.
https://scroll.in/latest/846647/oil-spill-from-ongc-well-on-june-30-contaminated-the-soil-and-water-in-kathiramangalam-says-report

Other Documents

The villagers claim ONGC’s work has contaminated their water, and spoilt their land. ONGC blames “vested interests”. Photo: Dharani Thangavelu/Mint
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/cauvetyTN.oilspill.jpg

'Strong protests against state and central governments for unleashing measures to suppress protests in Kathiramangalam' by 'Cauvery rights group'



(https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/cops-started-fire-then-blamed-us-anti-ongc-protesters-face-attempt-murder-charges-tn-64540)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/protest_ONGC_3.png

SimpliCity News Team: - Photos: Sounder Mohan Jul 05, 2017 PM About 20 cadres of Puratchikara Illaignar Munnani were arrested here when they staged a demonstration in support of farmers who are protesting against tapping of natural gas in Cauvery basin. Protest against authorities for unleashing measures to suppress people who are fighting against ONGC in Kathiramangalam'
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/ONGprotest.jpg

Other CommentsNityanand Jayaram, a researcher based in Chennai, was contacted for primary information.

Meta Information

ContributorArpita Lulla, Kalpavriksh, [email protected]
Last update08/07/2018

Images

 

The villagers claim ONGC’s work has contaminated their water, and spoilt their land. ONGC blames “vested interests”. Photo: Dharani Thangavelu/Mint

'Strong protests against state and central governments for unleashing measures to suppress protests in Kathiramangalam' by 'Cauvery rights group' (https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/cops-started-fire-then-blamed-us-anti-ongc-protesters-face-attempt-murder-charges-tn-64540)

SimpliCity News Team: - Photos: Sounder Mohan Jul 05, 2017 PM About 20 cadres of Puratchikara Illaignar Munnani were arrested here when they staged a demonstration in support of farmers who are protesting against tapping of natural gas in Cauvery basin.

Protest against authorities for unleashing measures to suppress people who are fighting against ONGC in Kathiramangalam'