Chennai: None of the 71 hydrocarbon wells that official records show as operational in the delta districts has a valid environmental license under the Air and Water Act, according to data received from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. These findings were part of a report by CauveryDeltaWatch that spotlighted ONGC’s illegal operations and TNPCB's regulatory failure. Titled 'Illegal Business: The Real Story of ONGC's Operations in Cauvery Basin,' the study compiled findings from a six-month-long investigation involving right to information requests and internet research into ONGC's safety and operational practices, and compliance with environmental laws in the delta districts. Apart from incriminating ONGC, the report highlights the regulatory collapse and breakdown in the rule of law, and the corporate capture of district administration and police.
According to the report, TNPCB has records only for 219 wells, where ONGC claims to have dug 700 wells in the delta districts of Cuddalore, Ariyalur, Nagapattinam, Thiruvarur, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Ramanathapuram. TNPCB records reveal that only 71 wells are operational - none with valid licenses - whereas ONGC claims to have 183 wells in production. Exploratory and production wells require valid “Consent to Operate” under the Air and Water (Control and Prevention of Pollution) Act. Not even one of the 219 wells in TNPCB's records has a valid consent. ONGC's environmental track record too is marred by accidents and toxic oil spills that have harmed farmlands, water bodies and people.