The National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently gave a clean chit to Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Cairn Oil and Gas in an application challenging the environmental clearance (EC) granted to them for a joint venture project to expand the onshore oil and gas production in Barmer, Rajasthan [Yashovardhan Shandilya Sharma v Union of India].
Justice Sheo Kumar Singh and expert member Dr. Arun Kumar Verma dismissed an application filed against the EC granted under the provisions of the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to a project for expanding the onshore oil and gas production.
The tribunal found that the application was not maintainable.
"The Applicant has challenged the Environment clearance which can be challenged by way of filing the appeal, which has not been filed and now it is time barred," the NGT said.
Pertinently, it was held that the unit was periodically inspected State Pollution Control Board and the Central Ground Water Authority and no violation was found.
"The contents of the complaint as referred relates back to the grant of EC which have been properly addressed and do not survives after the grant of EC. No violation has been alleged with regard to the conditions after grant of EC," the judgment said.
The applicant, Yashovardhan Shandilya Sharma, had contended that the respondents had cut trees in large numbers to establish well-pads on the banks of the Luni River. It was submitted that this resulted in diminishing the green cover necessary around an industrial establishment to minimize the effect of pollution.
Further, it was stated that the chemicals from the well-pad seeped through the nearby fields resulting in the wells and surface water both being polluted.
Another violation contended by the applicant was that the chimneys emitted fire and the resultant smoke caused burning of farmers' fields which in turn caused air pollution, leading to skin diseases and eye irritation among the villagers.
Additionally, it was stated that noise pollution was being caused by the heavy machinery deployed by the respondent.
On the other hand, the respondents demonstrated provisions made for tree plantation, disposal of oil waste, use of ground water, green belt development etc. in detail before the tribunal.
On examining submissions by both parties, the application was dismissed. The tribunal reasoned that the authorities had found no violation in the unit, and the issues of the locals were addressed.
"There are proper provisions for tree plantation, disposal of oil waste, use of ground water, green belt development which has been narrated above. The grievances as mentioned by the public or local have been addressed and remedial measures have been taken by the project proponent," the tribunal ruled.
It also reasoned that the oil block was important to the country's energy security as it plays a pivotal role by contributing approximately 25 percent of the total domestic crude oil requirement.
Therefore, finding that no violation was alleged with regard to the conditions after grant of EC, the application was found devoid of any merit.
Senior Advocate Dhruv Mehta and advocates Ishaan George, Arvind Soni, Om Shankar Shrivastava, Yadvendra Yadav and Md. Iqraam appeared for the respondents.