Sunday, on a rare note, ‘Save Kathiramangalam’ was treading on social media, marking success of sustained and coordinated bids of residents of a small village in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu to invite public attention to the misery they have been undergoing as a result of an ONGC plant in their village. They have been resorting to various kinds of novel modes of protests against the crude oil exploration by state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.
The protest made headlines recently on 30 June when an agitation over an oil leak by the villagers turned violent, leading to use of “minimum force” by the cops. The police action invited wide criticism and shops remained shut for several days in the village to express solidarity with the protesting residents. ONGC has been pumping crude oil from some private lands at Kathiramangalam based on a June 2001 mining lease.
On Sunday, as a result of coordinated effort by the protesters, #SaveKathiramangalam was trending as thousands tweeting about the issue. Several people, including celebrities, took to social media inviting people’s attention to the cause.
The protests had got strengthened recently after the reports that the company is planning to start methane extraction from the area. Though the state government held three stages of talks with locals and the ONGC, but they ended in “failure”.
According to the villagers, the oil exploration by the company had contaminated the entire area, with chemicals and oil substances mixing with water and soil in the region.
“ONGC has completely messed this place up. Ideally there should use high grade material to encase the oil and gas so that it doesn't leak, but clearly it seems to have already entered the water table,” the protesters alleged. Showcasing, brown and yellowing water, the protesters say, “the contamination is evident to the eye. This water has to be tested.” “How can you leave a 3000 feet oil well discarded for over a decade?”
Talking to SouthLive, renowned environmentalist from Tamil Nadu, Nityanand Jayaraman, alleged that ONGC has been running substandard operations in the Cauvery delta.
Its operations have damaged fertile agricultural fields and the groundwater. It has been evading liability by colluding with the district administration and the pollution control boardNityanand Jayaraman, Environmentalist
He also demanded that the Planiswami government must commission an independent enquiry into the safety and environmental impacts of ONGC’s operations in the delta.
The protesting farmers demand immediate stopping of drilling by the company and the Delta to be declared as protected Agricultural zone. They also demanded all cases against protesting villagers withdrawn and released immediately.
“The livelihood of people, especially farmers are affected so people have come out n staged protest,” another environmentalist Sundar Rajan told SouthLive.
The pipes bust and fields were filled with oil and made it unusable for farming. Mainly the ground water is contaminated during drill. The level of ground water has come down drasticallySundar Rajan, Environmental Activist
However, the ONGC has denied allegations of water pollution due to its wells. But admitted admit that 15 cents of agricultural land had absorbed oil that leaked out of the pipeline recently. They further claimed that a report on the leak will be readied in two months adding thet they will adequately compensate the affected land owners.