'Don't cut trees and you'll be just fine!' MoEF

Vol 20, PW 17 (18 May 17) People & Policy

ONGC and Oil India have welcomed an environment ministry decision to fast-track clearances for seismic surveys on forest land so long as no trees are cut down.

Sandeep Sharma, assistant inspector general of forests, issued a one-page clarification on May 3 to principal secretaries of forests in all Indian states and territories. "Seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration which require the use of small explosive materials in shot holes in forest land will not attract the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980" he writes.

Sharma adds operations should be restricted to clearing bushes and chopping only tree branches while the density of shot holes should be a maximum 16 boreholes with a 6.6-inch diameter for every 10-sq km. "This is an important clarification," welcomes an ONGC officer.

"We used to face much delay carrying out shoots. Many north-eastern Indian blocks straddle protected forests and this leads to uncertainty.

Drilling and seismic campaigns are often delayed because of misunderstandings." Oil India sources recall cases where forest officials in Assam banned dynamite. Until now, he adds, Oil India dealt with this by changing shot line positions.

An environmental consultant however warns it is of paramount importance to regulate seismic activity. "These surveys involve vegetation clearance, the movement of vehicles and people, dust pollution, noise and vibrations" he says.

"Vegetation clearance can expose wildlife to predators and poachers.