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Farmers, experts oppose coal bed methane project

Special Correspondent
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They say it is a threat to environment, food security in Cauvery delta area

S. Ranganathan, Chairman of CCDDS, speaking at a seminar in Thanjavur on Monday. —Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
S. Ranganathan, Chairman of CCDDS, speaking at a seminar in Thanjavur on Monday. —Photo: B. Velankanni Raj

Farmers and agriculture experts have expressed apprehensions over the proposed coal bed methane exploration in the Mannargudi area of Cauvery delta and said it would threaten the environment, water resource and food security.

Speaking at the seminar on ‘coal bed methane gas production and food security of Cauvery delta’ organised by the Centre for Cauvery Delta Development Studies (CCDDS) here on Monday, they said the Cauvery delta was a food-producing area and there was a vast difference in extracting coal bed methane in Mannargudi and other places such as Ranikunj.

Mannargudi is a lignite zone and a fertile land, while it is not so in places such as Ranikunjthey said.

S. Janagarajan from the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) said Cauvery delta was already vulnerable and production of coal bed methane would damage it further environmentally, economically and socially. He said methane was much worse than CO2. The Great Eastern Energy Corporation Limited (GEECL), which is going to explore and produce methane gas in Mannargudi area had silently applied for a Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL) with the State government.

Exploration and other tests would continue for five years and the GEECL had got the permit to quit if tests proved that production was not profitable. But by that time the land and water in the region would be damaged, he complained.

P. M. Natarajan, member of working group, Planning Commission, Government of Tamil Nadu, said coal bed methane production would affect underground water table. As the project was to be taken up in the ancient Cauvery delta region, it would affect food production and livelihood of farmers and farm labourers too.

N. Ramachandran, Vice-Chancellor, Periyar Maniammai University, said that technology was not used on a large scale in agriculture. He called for evolving waterless technology to cultivate crops as water had become a problem.

S. Ranganathan, Chairman of CCDDS, said livelihood of farmers and farm labourers would be affected if the project was allowed.

Danabalan and P.R.Pandian, farmers’ representatives, said farmers had not been consulted before clearing the proposal.

Jayaram Srinivasan, Managing Director of GEECL, however, said methane was an important natural gas and the cleanest form of energy. GEECL was the first company to produce methane and commercially market it in India. He said that methane produced in the Mannargudi area wold be used only locally.

GEECL has been given permission to produce coal bed methane in 33 blocks in the country, including Mannargudi.

Methane was a better substitute for petrol and diesel. Water pumped before taking methane would be tested for its quality and used either for irrigation or allowed to evaporate.

Sethuraman from Tamil Nadu Science Forum, C. E. Karunakaran, irrigation expert, P. Natarajan, hydrogeologist, Anthonyraj, agriculture scientist, Paranthamam, former Superintending Engineer, PWD, H. Natarajan, agriculture scientist, spoke.

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