Soil and Water Conservation & Geology and Mining minister V Kashiho Sangtam stressed that it was high time that the economy of Nagaland received a boost through exploration and production (E&P) of petroleum.
In his keynote address at a panel discussion on “Oil and natural gas exploration and production in Nagaland: It’s relevance today” at Dimapur Government College (DGC) here on Tuesday, Kashiho described oil and natural gas as economically viable resource and a clear roadmap should be prepared for an early resumption of oil exploration in the State.
He also recalled the oil exploration in the 1970s and referred to the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Lotha Hoho at Gauhati High Court in 2012.
Information Technology & Communication (ITC&C), Science & Technology and New & Renewable Energy (NRE) adviser Mmhonlumo Kikon said the Central government had proposed a tripartite agreement among the Centre, Assam and Nagaland governments for oil exploration in the State and discussions were on in this regard.
He also insisted that whatever oil exploration was being undertaken in the disputed border areas, the royalty should be shared equally between the Assam and Nagaland. He mentioned that chief minister Neiphiu Rio was categorical that Nagaland should be paid oil royalty in Assam-Nagaland belt where Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) was carrying out exploration work. This, he said, would also be a part of the proposed tripartite agreement.
Mmhonlumo said the agreement drafted by the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG), to which the State government had given its written submissions for certain addition and omission was in the process of finalisation.
He said the State government was very clear that the Centre could not “challenge” the special provision of Article 371 (A) of the Constitution of India.
Mmhonlumo clarified that if the State had to start oil exploration, then it had to be with collaboration with MoPNG and involve revenue sharing and royalty for landowners.
Speaking on the occasion Gauhati High Court Kohima Bench senior advocate and High Court Bar Association, Kohima president CT Jamir claimed that all E&P matters had become subjudice to date.
He mentioned that the Nagaland Petroleum & Natural Gas (NPNG) Regulations and Rules, 2012 was passed by the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) in 2012, though it was challenged through a PIL and thereafter all E&P activities became subjudice.
He also spoke on the conflict between Article 371 (A) and the Union List (a list of 97 items given in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India on which Parliament had exclusive power to legislate).
Meanwhile, in a PowerPoint presentation, deputy general manager (Administration – Frontier Basin) of Oil India Ltd Meyabi Arho Niphi said Nagaland’s neighbour Assam was ahead as far as oil E&P was concerned.
On the “misperception” about oil exploration among Nagas, he noted that many Nagas thought oil exploration meant companies bringing the delivery, placing it in a plot of land, start drilling, produce oil and discuss royalties.
He explained to the gathering that a seismic survey was done first to locate where oil and fossil fuels were located and thereafter a timeframe of about eight years was required for a company to start exploration.
Further, he said if Nagaland was serious about oil exploration, then it should not be looking at a time span of 5-10 years but understand that this was a time-taking process.
On prospects of petroleum and natural gas in the Nagaland, Kekhriezavi Lea, team leader of Operational Wing of Nagaland Petroleum and Natural Gas under Department of Geology & Mining and officer on special duty (OSD) to the State government, said Nagaland was a part of the Assam Arakan Basin that had established hydrocarbon occurrences and, hence, had potential for extensive and intensive exploration.
He claimed that Nagaland attracted the attention of petroleum explorers since the pre-Partition days and disclosed that the prospects of hydrocarbons being available in the entire Naga hills were high.
On E&P efforts, Lea admitted that companies like OIL, Vedanta, etc, were seeking permits from the State government.
In his opening remarks, Business Association of Nagas president L Mongkum Jamir, who was a moderator for the discussion, urged the people to ponder over the benefits if fossil fuels deposits were found in Nagaland and on the impact this would have in the local economy.
Mentioning that there were many technology improvements that would eventually replace non-renewable energy, he wondered if Nagaland was willing to be left behind.
Earlier, in his welcome address, DGC principal Dr M Libanthung Ngullie, while referring to Article 371A, asserted that the State has the exclusive rights over its land and resources. He maintained that the issue of who owned the land and resources still remained contested.
Assistant professor of Economics of DGC Imtikokla Ozukum, who chaired the programme, gave a brief thematic exposition on the topic highlighting the present status and challenges.
Later, a discussion was also held among the panellists and moderator in which all had agreed that oil exploration and production needed to start as early as possible in a professional manner.
The vote of thanks was proposed by assistant professor (Economics) Pudezono Tase.
Rapporteurs of the discussion were assistant professor of Philosophy Dr Asangba Tzüdir and assistant professor of History Neisenuo Apon.
Altogether, 73 participants, including faculty members, representatives of the civil society, members of BAN and students, attended the programme.