Special agri zone status may not affect ongoing projects in T.N.

Officials say government only intends to bar fresh attempts at exploration of gas, minerals

February 12, 2020 12:26 am | Updated 12:26 am IST - CHENNAI

A file picture of an exploratory well sunk by ONGC near Neduvasal in Pudukottai district.

A file picture of an exploratory well sunk by ONGC near Neduvasal in Pudukottai district.

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami’s announcement on Sunday last that the Cauvery delta region would be declared ‘ Protected Special Agricultural Zone’ (PSAZ) may not affect various ongoing projects in the districts, including hydrocarbon exploration. Mr Palaniswami had said no “new projects such as the hydrocarbon project” would be allowed in delta districts.

The primary intention of the government is to prohibit any “fresh” attempts at exploration of gas and minerals in the Cauvery delta region, senior bureaucrats indicated. “This is wet-land ecology and such explorations would affect agriculture severely. Moreover, such explorations would also lead to seawater intrusion.”

Since the ongoing projects in the Cauvery delta have already obtained necessary permission from the authorities concerned, they may not be affected by the announcement,” informed sources said.

The proposed ₹50,000 crore investment in Cuddalore by Haldia Petrochemicals would be allowed since “the unit is outside” the Cauvery delta core region. Besides, it is only replacing another private player.

CM yet to clarify

The Chief Minister has so far not clarified about the fate of the ongoing projects in the region. The proposed PSAZ would cover the entire Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur and Thanjavur districts. The remaining five districts would be covered only partially.

The declaration was to primarily to stop “local exploitation of underground minerals and gas.” That way, refineries could be allowed since they would only use imported oil, officials explained.

Though the contours of the policy are yet to be outlined, sources hinted that infrastructure projects such as laying of roads and railways and construction of bridges would not be affected.

“We need electricity and roads for agriculture and we also need employment for people there,” an official said.

The State government is actively pursuing a proposal to set up a food processing park in Tiruvarur district, as such projects are needed for job creation for local youth.

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