Sunday, December 20, 2009

How serious is ONGC to get hold on pollution issue?

GUWAHATI, Dec 20: The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), the one of the major player of the country in energy sector which contributes 77 per cent of India’s domestic petroleum and 81 per cent of its natural gas has been in news several times for its negligence to have taken any concrete step to stop pollution in the vicinity of their fields.

One of the worst effected in this regard is Sivasagar district of upper Assam, the place which is potentially viable for oil and natural gas and ONGC had not laid any stone unturned to maximize their profit from this area. In fact, it has been continuing searching new fields everyday. But how much serious the corporation is in visualizing the environmental aspects and the issues related with socio-economy of the people lives in the vicinity?

As per the ground study conducted throughout the district it has been witnessed that  Lakowa, Galeky, Rudrasagar, Panidihing, Sepon, Hanhsara, Dhitaipukhuri, Nitaipukhuri, Amguri areas have been severely affected due to the insensitive attitude of the corporation while dealing with the possible damage caused by the pollutants of its waste products which is not only polluting air, water and soil but adversely affecting the rural economy as well.

Sivasagar district situated between 94.25° and 95.25° Longitude East and 21.45° and 27.15° Latitude North with elevation of 86.6 mt above the sea level is spreading across 1,62,921 sq km of geographical area having 10,51,736 population (as per 2001 census). Majority of the population belongs to rural areas, population of whose stood at 9,54,557. Most of these people earn their livelihood by various agricultural activities. The major crop cultivated throughout the area is paddy. The other sources of income for these people include sericulture, livestock, fishery and others.

But according to the villagers, mismanagement of the ONGC to get hold on pollution, the village economy have been adversely affected from last several years. Soil fertility of the cultivable land has been reduced alarmingly, significance of which has been witnessed with considerably low production of crop. The villagers also mentioned the tragic experience of harvesting fruitless seeds of paddy which according to them is due to the affect of pollution.

It is quite disappointing that the sericulture of the area have been facing a similar threat. Survival of life of existing host trees for world famous golden yarn, mulberry, silk yarn, etc. became impossible in such an adverse climatic condition.

What matters most is plantation of new trees, which needs a favourable climate to grow, juvenile and mature. But unfortunately, none can be expected in such an environment. Besides, livestock, piggery, poultry, fishery, etc. the one of the common income source of village people has received a serious and irredeemable jolt.

According to sources, the Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP) 1 and 2 release different chemical mixed water to the river Desang, flows through heart of the Sivasagar town. From here one can imagine how serious the matter is not only from environmental but it is a matter causing threat to human health as well. On the other hand, the water based economy like fishery and others has been severely affected due to this. In fact, water pollution is the one of the major cause of disappearance of vulnerable species of fishes.

According to the experts, the ONGC pollution are caused mostly by flare-up of natural gases which cannot be utilized, spillage of waste affluent from ONGC oil wells, topographical damages of the surface of the soil because of use of large-scale vehicles, trailers, etc. But being a dominant player in the energy sector, who (ONGC) produces about 1.2 million tonnes of oil annually from Assam only, nothing concrete have been taken by the ONGC so far to stop pollution. This is very shameful for a prestigious industrial set up like ONGC, which was created during the heyday of India’s embrace of import substituting industrialization and later, converted into the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation in 1994 as India fitfully embraced the market. With such a strong background why adequate steps not taken by the concerned authority yet is a big question? This cannot be justified from the aspect of human rights also.

The pollution from ONGC operation in the air, water and soil apart from other things like health hazards to men, animals, cattle, etc. has devastated the rural economy in the operational areas to such an extent that the health of the rural economy in these areas cannot be redeemed even in the distant future. As such after exhaustion of the wasting natural resources like oil and gas the avenues of the traditional earning sources in the rural sector of the areas where from the precious hydrocarbon has been produced will be stopped forever and this is a serious violation of human rights. Besides, it is a matter of great concern with respect to rapid change of climate as well. THE SENTINEL

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