By Paojel Chaoba
IMPHAL, July 15: In the official process of initiating crude oil drilling exploration at Churachandpur, Tamenglong and Jiribam district, the first public hearing which is a requisite in getting environmental clearance to commence drilling from the Union Environment ministry will be held on July 30 at Jiribam Town Hall.
The exploration has been licensed to Jubilant Oil and Gas Pvt.Ltd, a Noida based company and 30 oil wells will be dug in areas of the mentioned three districts. An agreement was made for four years legitimizing the said company to conduct exploration in the state by the principal secretary of Commerce and Industries, O Nabakishore on behalf of the state government. The agreement having DO No.0-12012/4/2010-ONG III was made in November, 2010.
Following official procedures, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was outsourced to SENES Consultants India Pvt. Ltd by Jubiliant. The study for the report includes assessing environmental and social impacts which will and might occur in implementing the project and then arriving at a site specific Environment Management Plan (EMP). The study consist of initial scoping,site visits, environmental monitoring and analysis.
The EIA report available with IFP mentions that 30 potential oil well locations has been identified, 7 hectares will be required for each well which has an initial building estimate of Rs 40 crore.
The objective of the exploration is to determine the potential of the crude oil reserves, dig wells and testing and further decommissioning wells which do not have adequate reserves. Each well will have a target depth of 2500-4500 meters and will be drilled using an ‘oil based mud system’. The drilling after building the onshore rig has a three month time frame operation and a total of 6750 KL of water will be used for each well.
The report further mentions that 41 cubic meter of wastewater will be generated every day in the drilling process; however the waste will be managed using various procedures.
The drilling hazards includes loss of well control resulting in blow out (crude oil erupting), fire, explosion and oil spills. The company is to mitigate the hazards by adopting preventory measures.
However, environmental activists have voiced credibility on the environmental report and the contract terms between the state government and Jubilant Company.
According to Ram Wangkheirakpam, environmental activist, there is no mention in the terms of agreement signed by Jubilant and state government of who will bear responsibility if an oil spill or similar hazard occurs.
“The agreement finds no mention of who will clear the mess and who will pay in case of an oil spill. The rules have no mention of who will compensate if a similar oil spill which occurred in Wokha district of Nagaland happens here. The ONGC exploratory wells have devastated agricultural land, forests and water bodies”, he told IFP.
Dr RK Ranjan of Manipur University also voiced that the environment assessment report seem to be conducted improperly. He said that the list of flora and fauna mentioned in the report seem to have been copied from other sources and does not find mention of many other species which are actually found in the area including such as the monitor lizard.
Dr Ranjan recently undertook a survey to study the Barak river ecosystem and recorded many different varieties of fauna found around the stated areas of drilling. He also questioned how the wastage spilled from the wells will be contained effectively and if the technology is foolproof. “If any unwanted incident occurs, then one of the most biodiverse regions in the world will be destroyed”, he said.
The EIA report in the regard mentions that the waste water will be collected in pipes and recycled for use in drilling and the remaining waste water would be discharged in conformance to norms laid by onshore effluent discharge standards.
The report in some of the assessment tables mentions that ‘regional impact in long term or medium damage to the natural environment is high. Multiple fatalities, permanent disability to more than 50 persons may happen, there may be severe violation of national limits in environmental emission and may have long term impact on ecologically sensitive areas. According to table 5.3 in the EIA report (Block 2), 25 catastrophic event and 20 major events is likely to occur. However, the Jubilant Company has given contingency plans for mitigating the hazards.
It may be mentioned that the JAC on Protection of Hydrocarbons and Resources held a protest rally at Nungba Bazar on March 14 last against the building of Tipaimukh Dam and Oil exploration in the state. Zeliangrong civil organizations have demanded the cancellation of Petroleum Exploration Licences.