Chennai: Environmentalists and activists on Wednesday said an analysis of soil, groundwater and surface water from the Cauvery delta region in Tamil Nadu has revealed that hydrocarbon operations of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) are harming the environment.
This comes at a time when the Cauvery delta has been on the boil following an oil leak from an ONGC pipeline in Kathiramangalam, Thanjavur, on 30 June.
Releasing the results in Chennai, the Solidarity Group for Justice and Accountability— a state-wide alliance of individuals and people’s organizations— called for an independent third-party audit of the environmental impact of ongoing hydrocarbon activities and remediation of contaminated sites.
The report published on Wednesday said seven samples collected for the study in the delta region were found to have been contaminated by hydrocarbons released during oil extraction or refining.
Mint had reported that people across the delta region had raised issues of contamination of water and soil, following the uproar in Kathiramangalam.
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While the people of Kathiramangalam have been protesting over the last few months against ONGC’s operations in their village, the oil spill aggravated the protests and peaked following a lathicharge by the police which was followed by the arrest of 10 people.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami justified the police action in the legislative assembly on 3 July, leading to widespread condemnation.
The results of the study by the Solidarity Group for Justice and Accountability through CVR Labs Private Ltd., have concluded that the ONGC failed to observe “best practices in responding to the 30 June oil spill and the contamination has been carried by rainwaters into the Velloor irrigation canal."
“ONGC has ignored repeated requests by the land-owner and farmers of surrounding lands to clean up the contamination," the report said.
The ONGC officials were not immediately available for comment.
Meanwhile, at a meeting chaired by the state owned company’s onshore director V.P. Mahawar last month, ONGC claimed that the damaged pipeline in Kathiramangalam had been attended to and the contaminated lands were fully restored.
However, ONGC has not presented any scientific monitoring data to demonstrate the quality of the company’s operations. In the midst of the allegations, the state-owned company has not presented results of soil or water from the spill site in Kathiramangalam to demonstrate the effectiveness of their clean-up.
Earlier, the ONGC officials had blamed the people of Kathiramangalam for the delay in fixing up the pipeline.
While the uncontaminated surface water and soil meant for irrigation should not contain any total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH), surface water sample taken from the agricultural land that had the oil leak, contained 33.9 milligrams per litre of TPH and sample from 50 feet away from the farmland was mixed with rainwater and contained 2.4 milligrams per litre of TPH, the report said.
The soil taken 50 feet from the oil spill site contained 438 mg/kg of TPH and the sample taken from the site contained 1118 mg/kg.
Also, two soil samples collected from a farm in Thirupunjai, Thiruvarur district, which had an oil spill more than 10 years ago, continues to bear the brunt of contamination. “The samples contained 1,760 parts per million (or mg/kg) and 2,983 mg/kg of TPH, respectively."
Similar results on contamination were found in Nagapattinam district too, according to the report.