Recommendations of panel await implementation

The recommendations of a committee of the Ministry of Forests and Environment to study the impact of oil and gas exploration in the Krishna Godavari basin await implementation.

The committee was appointed following the AP High Court order in a writ petition filed by Krishna Godavari Deltala Parirakshana Samithi of Bhimavaram seeking to declare large scale exploitation of oil and natural gas in the basin as unconstitutional since the issues of land subsidence and other geo hazards were not considered and also seeking measures to deal with such hazards. Exploration of natural gas has been going on intensively during the last decade in the basin.

In its order on June 29, 2009, the High Court directed the Central Government to constitute an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), which should make a field inspection, scrutinise the appraisal and submit a report to the court giving it four months of time.

A sub-committee appointed by the Ministry to go into the issue said there was no direct evidence available to the committee to indicate any land subsidence in the gas field or the adjoining areas in the KG Basin. From geological considerations also, this region does not appear to be prone to significant land subsidence. It is, however, suggested that an expert organisation like the Indian School of Mines may be entrusted with a detailed study on existing or likely land subsidence in this region. The problem of underground water getting saline in certain locations has been observed, the sub-committee has said. The exact reason needs to be studied. Some studies have suggested that extensive aquaculture in the region could be a factor. This could also be due to construction of dams in the upstream and erosion of part of the delta. A survey of the whole delta region needs to be carried out.

Since land subsidence has been reported and observed in the areas where extensive extraction of underground water, oil and gas or mining in various parts of the world including India (coal mines) has been carried out, this aspect needs to be taken into consideration while taking up any project on underground extraction, the sub-committee has said. Measurement of ground level as baseline data has therefore to be included in the EIA study and periodical monitoring of the level needs to be carried out during the operational phase, the committee said.

Geological factors

In case geological factors indicate likelihood of land subsidence and consequential impacts, remedial measures need to be planned by the project proponent. Provision of such measures needs to be taken into consideration while evaluating the projects for environmental clearance.

The sub-committee report was presented before the EAC and it was assessed and accepted the report and its recommendations in October 2009.

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