Landowners in Nagaland want E&P resumption

Vol 20, PW 21 (13 Jul 17) People & Policy

Sharp divisions have surfaced in Nagaland between landowners sitting on oil reserves and the tribal body representing them in a legal battle with the state government over E&P rights and royalties.

Twenty-one landowners sitting on 3.5m tonnes (24.5m barrels) of recoverable oil reserves in Wokha district are tired of endless litigation and want a resumption of E&P more than 20 years after ONGC abandoned the Changpang oilfield and pulled out in 1994 following insurgent threats. Landowners are today pressing the Lotha Hoho tribal organisation to withdraw a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in the Guwahati High Court in 2015 blocking E&P in the state.

During meetings on June 28 and 29 landowner lobby group Lotha Lower Range Public Organisation (LLRPO) promised to compromise with state authorities and conveyed their offer at a Lotha Hoho meeting in Wokha on June 30. "We don't know what this government or Lotha Hoho are doing," Yana Lotha, head of the LLRPO, tells this report.

After the June 30 meeting, Lotha Hoho announced it is ready to drop its PIL, but only if changes are made to the Nagaland Petroleum and Natural Gas Rules 2012. In particular the Lotha Hoho wants landowners to receive 15% royalty not 9% offered by Metropolitan Oil and Gas - a mysterious Delhi-based company that won a permit for Changpang with the blessing of former chief ministers Neiphiu Rio and TR Zeliang.