Oil Project: Greater Loss for Manipur

By : Jinine Lai,
Assistant Professor, University of Suwon, S Korea
After a private firm called Asian Oil Fields under Oil India Limited has started hydrocarbon exploration at Khaidem village, Imphal West,here comes again another noise from the locals. The authority concerned has not informed the public and civil societies properly with the documents of Environmental Impact Assessment, Social Impact Assessment and Detailed Project Report of the project. It may be a violation of the principle known as theFree prior and informed consent (FPIC)uphold by the United Nations.
Prior to this, we may remember that Jubilant Energy Private Limited was awarded two blocks of oil deposition that covers about 4000 sq. km. in the southwest Manipur after the eight round of bidding under the New Exploration License Policy by the Government of India.  The production share contracts were signed by S. K. Srivastava, Director General of Hydrocarbons, and D. N. Narasimha Raju, Joint Secretary on behalf of the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India in July 2010. The Manipur Government granted the Petroleum Exploration License to Jubilant in September 2010. And not long before another Block of about 220 sq km in Jiribamwas given contract lease to Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, India (ONGC).
Now, the most critical concern is – a rationality of loss and profit of such so called developmental project. Why it will be trade-off calculation of the greater loss over smaller profit?
First, how far locals and peoples of Manipur will be benefited from the oil extraction is a key concern always. In fact, the royalty share for the state and community is around 10% of gross production; it is also possible only after hard bargaining. The state government has very little judicial strength to entertain the hydrocarbon production share on their own soils. The Association of Natural Gas and … vs Union Of India (Uoi) And Ors. on 25 March, 2004 (Supreme Court) displayed a precedent with following terms
1. Natural Gas including Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is a Union subject covered by Entry 53 of List I and the Union has exclusive legislative competence to enact laws on natural gas.
2. The States have no legislative competence to make Saws on the subject of natural gas and liquefied natural gas under Entry 25 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.
Second, we know most of the oil extraction happens in the desert and offshore. But for us it is amidst the rich biological environment. During the course of extraction, the saline (formation) water will come out; accidental oil spillage and frequent leakages will happen; sewage, surface runoff, drilling cuts, and other hazardous oil contents will also be disposed. They will spread fast due to the monsoon rain and frequent flood then flow down to Loktaklake through small streams.
In general, hydrocarbon production and transport has a significant impact on the landscape and local environment. Contamination of soil and water is a common consequence of oil production. In Ecuador, for example, oil and water separation stations in the Oriente generate more than 3.2 million gallons of liquid waste each day, most of which has been discharged untreated into the environment. Groundwater is particularly susceptible to contamination from the Formation Water, extracted along with oil during drilling. This is contaminated both with oil and heavy metals and is therefore toxic. Further impacts stem from the burn-off of excess natural gas which has had a devastating effect on water quality and biota there, most notably Nigeria. This burning releases methane, sulphurdioxid and toxic compounds. The dry winter can also exacerbate the risk of fires.   
The Assessment of Ogoniland, Nigeria by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2011 revealed the tragic history of pollution and its severe hazardous impacts on people and the environment due to oil spills and oil well fires. The Ogoniland community is exposed to petroleum hydrocarbons in the air and drinking water, sometimes at elevated concentrations.  The Assessment confirmed that it will take 25-30 years to restore environmental health and reverse the damage. The UNEP recommended the creation of an ‘Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland’, with an initial capital of $ 1 billion with financial inputs from oil industry operators. The campaign for sustainable development has been revitalised by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development,  Rio+20, which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, twenty years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit. It underlines that we are to ensure that the world is liveable for our children and grandchildren, with a greener, sustainable economy. Towards this end, we must consume energy wisely. Sustainability calls for a decent standard of living for everyone without environmental deterioration, and without compromising the needs of future generations.  Medicinal plants, dense bamboo jungles and other forest resources are very abundant sources of the sustainable development. As an alternative, an economy of such resources that also fulfils the principles of justice and sustainable development will be the best argument to avoid oil and gas extraction

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