Are the North-Eastern states to be remembered only when any communal riot happens and when the blood of common people flows like water? Will their struggle find a place and their voices ever be heard when they protest peacefully for their water, forest and land ? Why the common people are fighting against oil extraction in Manipur has not been brought to light in the so called Indian Media.
On 17 August 2012, at the Nungba Community Hall in Tamenglong district of Manipur, the Government of Manipur arranged a public hearing to enable common people to present their objections before the Government. The Manipur Pollution Control Board arranged this public hearing in which the region’s villagers were to present their objections. The people were protesting against Oil Extraction with banners in their hands. That is why the public hearing didn’t happen. The police filed a FIR on 23/8/2012 against 15 villagers and cases will run in the court under IPC rules 148, 149, 341, 353 and 506. The people were accused of obstructing Government work and creating violence. Among them some were Government officials, and the respective Departments have ordered them to surrender. The incident was the fall-out of an agreement between the Government of India and a company of the Netherlands. In 2009, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, India granted the Jubilant Oil and Gas Private Limited (JOGPL) of Netherlands permission to search and drill for petroleum products in two parts of Manipur; one in Jiribam (Imphal East) and another in Tamenglong and Churachandpur districts. Now this company wants to produce oil here. The total area of Manipur is 22327 square kilometers (sq kms). For oil mining, 4000 sq kms area has been allocated, which is about one-sixth of the total area. It has been estimated that around 5000 billion cubic feet of oil is available in Manipur. For the time being 30 oil wells are under operation.
In addition to water, soil and food products are also getting polluted during the search for oil. The forests and the climate are being affected detrimentally. The oil project will also harm the bio-diversity, hot spot zone and the climatic conditions of India and neighbouring countries, due to which many living things may become endangered and reach extinction level.
According to the Environment Assessment report of a survey done by SENES Consultants India Pvt. Ltd, the public hearing was due on 17 August 2012 and the Chairman of the hearing was Mr. Jiribam Y. Iboyaima, Additional District Magistrate. Ajay Visen was leading the Netherlands company. The signature on the contract for production sharing was done on 19 July 2010. The signature for the first phase of production sharing (AA-ONN 2009/1) was on 30 June 2010 and the license was given by the Manipur Government on 23 September 2010.The signature for the second phase of production sharing was done on 19 July 2010 and the license was given on 20 September 2010. The signature for the Exploration License Deed was done on 15 November 2010 without informing the local people. The people of Churachandpur and Jiribam sub division do not have any knowledge of those rules and regulations by which the Central Government, State Government and JOGPL have consented to oil extraction. Moreover, the report related to the environment is also not available in local languages like Liangmai and Kuki, which is very essential for the process of a public hearing. The quantity of oil found in Manipur has not been yet disclosed to the affected people and also to those in other parts of the state. Neither have the local people of Manipur been informed that oil has been found in the state and a foreign company has been introduced for digging out the oil.
This activity will affect the environment of the region. Flora & fauna and wild life will also be at peril. In terms of the environment, this region is very unique. Plants used for making medicines are also abundant here. Tamenglong in particular is very sensitive in terms of the environment. The existence of wild life and the community is being ignored. Substantial evidence has been found which shows that due to oil leakage, probing, drilling, accidents and bursting of pipe lines, etc., rivers and other water bodies are getting polluted. Rivers like the Barak. Makru and other sub rivers will be affected due to drilling and mining of oil. In addition to water, soil and food products are also getting polluted during the search for oil. The forests and the climate are being affected detrimentally. This project will also harm the bio-diversity, hot spot zone and the climatic conditions of India and neighbouring countries, due to which many living things may become endangered and reach extinction level.
Stop oil mining: Civil Society
The social organizations a arranged meeting on this issue at he Manipur Press Club in which All Zeliangrong Students’ Union, Zeliangrong Baudi, Naga Women’s Union, North East Dialogue Forum, Lifewatch, Zomi Human Rights Foundation, Centre for Organisation Research and Education, Sinlung Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Organisation, Action Committee Against Tipaimukh Project, Citizen Kosen for Dams and Development, Tamenglong Village Authority, Naga Peoples Movement For Human Rights etc., said that in the name of development, any kind of destructive work in the state will not be permitted. The Central Government, State Government and JOGPL should not work on the project, until and unless they get the consent of the local people. They also said rights of the local people should not be violated.
Environment Impact Assessment Report
A survey was done by SENES Consultants India Private Limited, in which the Environment Assessment Report says that in total there are 30 oil wells in the two phases. The oil wells from which oil mining will be done are spread over 4000 sq ft. There are 17 oil wells in the first phase and 13 in the second phase. Each well is spread in a 7 hectare area. The objective of oil exploration is to determine the ‘deposition’ of crude oil, to dig, to examine and also to find out whether adequate oil deposition is available or not. The depth of each oil well has been kept between 2500-4500 meters. The reports says that every day during the mining process, 41 cubic meters contamined water will be taken out. It is also mentioned in the report that the forest area in these districts (Churachandpur, Tamenglong and Imphal East) is approximately 90.96 percent, 88.11 percent and 34.08 percent respectively. These include wild life sanctuaries. The most important point is that about 9.76 percent of these areas are reserve forests. These areas are very sensitive. Trespassing is prohibited in this area. Clouded Leopard, Hollocks Gibbon, the only ape found in the Indian sub continent, and the Himalayan Bear are found here. Tamenglong district is also home for Leopards and Golden cats. The important question that arises is how the Forest Department could give permission to private companies for digging oil wells in a forest area that is so rich in flora and fauna.