Oil s not well

india's premier oil exploration company, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation ( ongc ) has been pulled up by the Assam Pollution Control Board ( apcb ) for severely violating environmental norms in its drilling operations in the state. The board has refused to give a no objection certificate ( noc ) to ongc for further drilling.

The board based its observations on a report of an expert committee which said that the company's 100-odd drilling sites in Assam were severely polluting the soil and water of the region. The increasing pollution is affecting agricultural land, tea plantations and, most importantly, the health of the local people living near the drilling sites, said the report.

The report mentioned that the pollution had reached "alarming levels' and, as a result, there has been an increase in health disorders among the people living in Sibasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts of upper Assam.

"The existing effluent treatment plants ( etp s) of these oil exploration companies, primarily ongc 's, are highly defective,' said Lakshmi Nandan Bora, chairperson, apcb . Says Krishna Gopal Bhatta, a member of the expert committee: "The drilling waste on these areas are directly affecting the surrounding farmland and polluting the waterbodies to an unrivalled extent. Moreover, when the drilling is over at a particular site, ongc makes no effort to clean up the effluents that lie on the surface.'

At many places, the effluents are getting mixed with the drinking water. One such affected village is Kaliapani in Sibsagar district. The water of the Kaliapani river, which is the region's only source of drinking water, is perennially black. The local people have been left with no alternative but to use the oily water for drinking and irrigation.