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

Protests against ONGC, after groundwater was affected. There was police repression. Protest methods included a community kitchen and using firewood instead of the LPG supplied by ONGC.


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. 

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Basic Data
NameOil spill by ONGC , Kathiramnagalam, Cauvery delta, TN, India
ProvinceTamil Nadu
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
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.
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
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Criminalization of activists
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

Novel protest against ONGC in Kathiramangalam village of TN
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Incited locals obstructed damage control in Kathiramangalam oil leak: ONGC
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Why is Tamil Nadu’s Cauvery Delta fighting against ONGC?
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Two pipeline leaks in 45 days. What is ONGC doing?
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Hydrocarbon activities have harmed delta environment scientific analysis reveals
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Water and soil contaminated by ONGC hydrocarbons in Tamil-Nadu
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Tamil Nadu unleashing police force as public protests grow
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Groundwater and soil contaminated say activists, Tests confirm what ONGC has been denying
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Facing protests, ONGC decides to brazen it out with a message to be grateful
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All you need know about Tamil Nadu's petrochemical hub and how it could affect you
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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
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9 August 2017. Scroll Staff. Environmental pollution.

Oil spill from ONGC well on June 30 contaminated the soil and water in Kathiramangalam, says report.
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Other Documents

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'
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The villagers claim ONGC’s work has contaminated their water, and spoilt their land. ONGC blames “vested interests”. Photo: Dharani Thangavelu/Mint
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'Strong protests against state and central governments for unleashing measures to suppress protests in Kathiramangalam' by 'Cauvery rights group'

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Other CommentsNityanand Jayaram, a researcher based in Chennai, was contacted for primary information.
Meta Information
ContributorArpita Lulla, Kalpavriksh, [email protected]
Last update08/07/2018