Centre’s oil exploration plans off Kanniyakumari coast could severely impact fertile fishing ground, marine biodiversity: experts

The Centre’s notice inviting offers for the exploration of oil and gas blocks has raised serious concerns in Kanniyakumari district where experts say, the Wadge Bank Ecosystem could be badly affected

January 22, 2024 12:09 pm | Updated 02:10 pm IST - CHENNAI

The Wadge Bank Ecosystem is a fertile fishing ground, providing a livelihood for fishers in the region, experts say. File photograph used for representational purposes only

The Wadge Bank Ecosystem is a fertile fishing ground, providing a livelihood for fishers in the region, experts say. File photograph used for representational purposes only | Photo Credit: RAJESH N

Residents of Kanniyakumari district have objected to the Union government’s plans for oil exploration off the Kanniyakumari coast. They say this could severely impact the Wadge Bank Ecosystem, a part of the sea that is a fertile fishing ground and rich in biodiversity. 

The Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Directorate of Hydro-Carbon has recently put out Notice Inviting Offers (NIO) for the exploration and development of oil and gas blocks in India, under the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP).

In his letter to Abilash Likhi, Secretary, Department of Fisheries, former IAS officer M.G. Devasahayam said it was unfortunate that the Ministry had floated bids without due diligence, environmental and economic impact assessments or consultations with the public who are likely to be badly affected.

Mr. Devasahayam said Wadge Bank was the mainstay of marine resources for fisherfols of the southern districts of India adjacent to Kanniyakumari. “I seek your intervention so that these basic requirements are adhered to, before proceeding further. In the meantime, the bidding for these three Blocks should be withdrawn and should not be proceeded with further,” Mr Devasahyam said in his letter.

Mr. Devasahayam pointed out that throughout the world, there were a handful of wadge banks, out of which, one was off the coastline of Kanniyakumari, situated in the southwest off the shore. “It is like a warehouse, a feeding house for the fish, and a number of reef systems exist in this region with over 200 varieties of rare fish species and more than 60 kinds of aquatic species.”

S. Lazarus of the Nagercoil-based Institute of Environmental Research and Social Education said marine life ecosystems are often overlooked, as they are not seen as a top priority, with regards to offshore-based projects. He said the Wadge Bank was an invaluable treasure that indigenous people and communities depended on for food and resources that were important to their culture. “Targeting these sensitive places for oil development is like cutting a golden egg-laying duck. This would destroy tradition, employment and livelihoods,” he added,

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