MoEF blames ONGC for Uran oil spill [%new%]
News Credit: Vishwa Mohan TNN
New Delhi: The Union environment ministry has indicted ONGC for the oil spill that was reported off the Uran coast near Mumbai in October. It has asked the petroleum ministry to take action against those responsible for not adhering to crucial monitoring norms in the public sector oil major despite repeated directions to it expressing similar concerns in the past.
The ONGC, which comes under the petroleum ministry, was indicted on the basis of a report submitted by an inspection team comprising experts from the Central Pollution Control Board, which found that poor maintenance of pipelines and negligence of their handlers had led to the spill, causing severe environmental damage to the coastal area. Citing the team’s findings, the then environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had even written a note to petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily last month expressing her concerns over such negligence. ‘ONGC hadn’t taken steps to prevent oil spill’
New Delhi: Following the Uran oil spill, for which the ONGC has been indicted, former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had urged oil minister Veerappa Moily to direct quick installation of IT-based monitoring system to prevent such incidents. Both the ministries are now under Moily who will have to unravel the ‘systemic failure’ that have led to such incidents in many parts of the country.
The green ministry had last month issued a ‘direction’ to ONGC under Section 5 of the Environmental Protection Act, seeking to know why such pipelines could not be closed for repeatedly causing oil spill. Though the oil company responded to the ‘direction’, it failed to convince ‘babus’ in the green ministry about the sincerity of its action due to its past record.
The ‘direction’ was issued on the basis of the report of the inspection team under CPCB member secretary J S Kamyotra that blamed the public sector firm for ignoring many similar directions in the past. The ministry had noted three such oil spills in the past one year.
Besides the spill at the Mumbai-Uran trunk oil pipeline following a rupture in ONGC’s main pipeline in October, another spill had been reported in the coastal areas of the Gulf of Khambhat following damage in the oil company’s pipeline near Bhadbhut village in Bharuch district, Gujarat, in August. In November 2012, a pipeline carrying crude oil for refining developed cracks and spilled oil in about 100 acres of farmland in a village in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam district.
A senior official said, “The environment ministry had written to the petroleum ministry on all these occasions. Though the ONGC had replied to our notes, it did not take adequate action to prevent such incidents which have not only damaged the local flora and fauna but also severely affected the aquatic life.”
Details submitted by the team that inspected the Uran oil spill site pointed out that the leaked oil along the shoreline from Mora to Karanja villages had affected local fishermen and damaged the soil in a large track of land. The official said though the petroleum ministry had set up an IT-based monitoring system, it failed to cover the entire stretch carrying underground oil pipeline. “The environment ministry has been consistently raising the issue, but it does not seem to be a priority for the petroleum ministry. We will raise the issue with the new minister who may now, hopefully, appreciate our concerns,” said the official.