Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan rushed to Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu on Monday night to inspect a massive crude oil spill from a pipeline belonging to the Oil and Natural Gas Commission. The Environment Ministry received reports that around 100 acres of farmland in a village in Nagapattinam were destroyed due to the spill from the pipeline.
Ministry officials said that the leak had been there since August, but people of Manjavadi village detected it only now after they found their farmlands flooded with oil. The oil was being sent to Narimanam for refining.
It is not yet clear whether the pipe had broken due to recent heavy rains or because the soil had become loose. ONGC officials said the pipes may have got corroded due to the saline condition of the area. The pipeline runs for 22 km through 25 wells.
This is the fourth such spill from the same pipeline this year. ONGC is currently building a new pipeline but it did not decommission the old one which is corroded at several places, Ministry sources said. “A major disaster was averted because there were rains but had it been summer, the damage could have been more because oil is highly inflammable,” said an official.
The Ministry could ask the oil major to submit a detail status report of all its old pipelines in India. As per international norms in cases like this, the government has to commission a third-party inspection to fix responsibility. The Environment
Protection Act, 1986, empowers the Ministry to direct errant companies to even stop operations. Natarajan will reach the spot on Tuesday morning and carry out an inspection.
The oil spill has raised concerns as there are several oil companies that own old pipes running through populated areas across the country.