The United Naga Council (UNC) has asserted that the alleged surreptitious activities of the Government of India and the Government of Manipur in licensing a multinational company for oil exploration in Tamenglong, Churachandpur and Jiribam sub-division without the free, prior and informed consent of the people is highly objectionable. The Naga Women's Union (NWU) too has raised strong objection against the series of, public hearings called by the Manipur Pollution Control Board on draft EIA for exploratory drilling and allied activities at Jiribam on July 30, Parbung on July 8 and Nungba on August 17. Innocent villagers of Tamenglong district, who have no technical knowledge of the far reaching impacts of oil drilling on the environment and habitation and the hazards of the activity are duped into signing agreement for seismic surveys by Alpha Geo company, the UNC said in a release.
It has also come to light that a lease and licence agreement has been signed by the Jubilant Offshore Drilling Company on perpetual use of 15 acres of land under Nungkhao (Luangkao) village in Tamenglong district for drilling purpose for a consideration of Rs 12 lakhs only. No environmental impact assessment on the activity has been carried out when it is obvious that oil spillage during testing and drilling, accidents and bursting of pipelines would lead to serious contamination of water bodies and rivers. Also no assessment has been made about the impact of influx of immigrants/migrants and increase in militarization that would arise out of oil exploration in the area.
Neither the terms and conditions of the licensing to the Jubilant Oil and Gas Private Limited nor the benefit that would accrue to the indigenous people from the oil exploration have not been made known to the public, it remarked. The manner in which the whole process had been put into place reflects lack of respect for the indigenous people and their right to decide how to use, control and manage their own resources, the Council lamented. There is total lack of concern of how their lives would be drastically impacted upon by the activity.
It is clearly driven by profit motive devoid of any human approach. Given the alleged sharp social divide in the state of Manipur on communal lines, the grim situation would be aggravated as the land and resources on which the people depend for survival are taken away and contaminated.
The Hill Area Committee which is constitutionally instituted under 371 C of the constitution has also not been approached for concurrence and approval of the exploration activity. Instead of according priority to settlement of issues, sneaky attempts are being made to tap and take away natural resources. In view of the above points, the UNC endorses the decision of the one day Convention on Petroleum Extraction held at Press Club, Imphal on the July 16,2012 to oppose oil extraction and assure the Committee on the protection of natural resources instituted therefrom of the UNC's support and solidarity in their noble mission, it conveyed.
Meanwhile, a press release issued by the NWU said that the public hearings are aimed at obtaining clearance without consultation of the would be affected indigenous peoples and without providing basic documents such as detailed project reports, contract agreements etc. Moreover, the whole procedure lacks transparency and accountability, it alleged. Petroleum exploration is risky and dangerous for the people living in these areas of Tamenglong, Churachandpur districts and Jiribam subdivision of Imphal East district.
People have seen adverse impactsof oil spillage that had happened in nearby Changpang Tssro, Wokha district of Nagaland and the world has witnessed enough oil exploration and drilling related accidents. Petroleum exploration in Manipur would livelihood, health of the people, land, rivers, animals and flora and fauna ofthe region which is one of the richest biodiversity hot-spot. "Indo-Naga peace talk is underway and before solving the Naga issues, our land and natural resources should not be touched by any outsider without free, prior and informed consent", it asserted.