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PIL on oil spills could hamper work: TR Zeliang

Correspondent, Kohima, Sep 14 (NPN)
Published on 15 Sep. 2011 1:19 AM IST
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Huge oil spills from oil wells abandoned by the ONGC at Changpang and Tssori villages under Wokha district during the past 17 years caused not only damage to the environment, but reports of toxicity causing harmful effects on humans besides constant fears that a spark could ignite the entire oil wells and cause a catastrophe of huge magnitude.

In the light of PIL filed against the ONGC and state government demanding compensation for the damages and to clean up the entire mess,  the cabinet sub-committee on formed to address the issue of framing guidelines for signing MoU for oil, gas and mineral business is expected to table a recommendation to earmark funds for cleaning up oil spills.

According to planning minister and convenor of the cabinet sub-committee T.R.Zeliang , the state government has accepted the fund projection for clean up as worked out by the department of Geology and Mining.

Talking to Nagaland Post here today, the minister revealed that the funds were included in works programme to be laid on the floor of the house on Thursday at the one-day session.

Zeliang also said that the entire efforts to cap the well and undertake repairs of clogged pipes and cleaning up of oil spill would take a minimum of two years time.
On the cabinet sub-committee’s approach on starting activities on oil and other minerals, he disclosed that the state would appoint a technical adviser from among 16 national and international consultancy firms which had responded to the invitation from the state.

The department of Geology and Mining which had conducted screening, short listed six whose profiles would then be forwarded to the cabinet sub committee for final decision.

Zeliang disclosed that as per the findings of the committee of experts, the most dangerous period of the oil spillage was during 1997-98 after ONGC abandoned the wells in 1994. He however said presently the dangerous levels has been reduced.

Asked to comment on the PIL filed by an NGO in the high court, T.R.Zeliang pointed out that the people of the area were silent for 17 years and that when the cabinet committee was constituted, they expressed happiness. He claimed that even the Lotha Hoho and landowners endorsed the works done by the cabinet sub committee.

He however expressed regrets that the PIL filed by “some Dimapur-based leaders” could hamper if not even derail the work of the committee. Zeliang said nobody raised any question about the constitution of the cabinet sub committee while it was in the process of framing guidelines on how much royalty landowners are to receive.He said that with the PIL, the work of the committee could be derailed even necessitating repeal of state Acts.

Zeliang pointed out the committee had held consultations with various tribal hohos to arrive at a clear understanding of the clauses under Article371(A) with regard to ownership of land and  its resources to include also oil, gas and minerals etc.

The state assembly passed  a resolution with Article 371(A) on framing laws on land and its resources that included oil,gas, minerals etc.
The cabinet sub committee is to submit its recommendations to the government for entering into MoU with any oil companies for doing business in Nagaland, he said.
Asked about the offer of ONGC to cap the leakages and also to clean up the entire environment, Zeliang was clear that ONGC should not be allowed to return. He pointed out that the Petroleum Exploration License to ONGC was cancelled and alleged it was attempting to enter through the backdoor.

He said when PEL was issued to ONGC, the clauses clearly mentioned that the company would be responsible for environmental damage or even causing health hazard.However he said when the union ministry have reply in the Rajya Sabha, it indicated that ONGC simply washed its hands off its responsibility.

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