Tamil Nadu

Oil spill on fields leaves farmers on edge

Paddy fields ravaged by oil that leaked from the ONGC-Cauvery Asset pipeline at Adiakkamanagalam in Keezhvelur. Photo: Special Arrangement  

At Adiakkamangalam in Keezhvelur, bronzed paddy fields, with burnt grass blades glistening against the scorching sun, catch the eye. Paddy crop in varying stages of growth stand wilted under the thick slick of crude oil.

These fields are awash with oil that has leaked from the now decommissioned crude oil pipeline of the ONGC-Cauvery Asset. Running through vast landscapes of paddy fields, the decade-old pipeline leaked oil that seeped into the dry surface only to resurface as slick following the recent rain.

The crude oil trunk line AKM Narimanam (Adiakkamangalam) was in use till recently. Now, a new line has been commissioned.

Ruptures from the old pipeline at intermittent points have been a recurrent feature causing anxiety to the farmers.

In August 2011, a similar rupture along the pipeline near river Devanadhi ruined Samba paddy fields. However, the damage was contained by the river, which washed away the oil slicks into the sea.

But now, the crude oil spill has begun flowing along the Kohur irrigation channel, which irrigates over 300 acres, across the villages of Manjavaadi, Anaimangalam, Kohur, Thenkarai and Vadakarai.

It is telling on the already weak prospects of the samba crop. Several acres of paddy fields irrigated by the oil slick-laden water from the channel have been ruined.

According to Kaveri Danapalan, general secretary, Cauvery Farmers Welfare Protection Association, whose eight acres were affected by a similar leak in 2009, he was compensated for four acres after a struggle.

“I received Rs.86,000 after a staunch fight. But, the reclamation cost for the ravaged soil was borne by me.”

Farmers have alleged that the compensation is often a token amount, with no costs for reclamation of the field. ONGC-Cauvery Asset does not consider reclamation costs, labour days lost, and scale of finance, while computing the loss, laments Mr. Danapalan. “It takes three years for reclamation of such fields.”

According to Pakkirisamy, who has lost four acres, each affected farmer was given Rs.5,000 as compensation. Today, his five acres bordering the point of leak face ruin.

Just across the irrigation channel, Mohammad Iqbal’s paddy fields have slowly begun to succumb to the spill seeping through the soil from the channel.

The compensation is calculated by a three-member team from the land acquisition section that includes a Tahsildar deputed to the ONGC for the purpose.

Speaking to The Hindu, an ONGC official said that corrective action was being taken. ONGC maintained a leakage history, and the pipeline in question had been decommissioned.

“Farmers should allow us to clear up the spot, so that further damage can be prevented,” he said.

Compensation was based on the recommendations of revenue officials.

On Saturday, the affected farmers, who have filed a police complaint against the PSU, refused to allow the ONGC team to clean up the mess, until a judicious compensation package was worked out.

“Peace talks were held last year and ONGC should stand by the decisions taken,” demanded Mr. Danapalan.

For now, tiny crabs, frogs and the occasional centipede, which constitute the harmonious ecosystem of a paddy field, lie dead on the bunds of the fields at Adiakkamangalam.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2020 10:03:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/oil-spill-on-fields-leaves-farmers-on-edge/article4062601.ece

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