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Oil spill by ONGC , Kathiramnagalam, Cauvery delta, TN, India

Protests against ONGC, after groundwater was affected. There was police repression. Protest methods included a community kitchen and using firewood instead of the LPG supplied by ONGC.


In Kathiramangalam, a village in Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district in the Cauvery delta, villagers and activists have been protesting Oil and Natural Gas Company (ONGC)’s activities. The Company has obtained 700 oil wells in Tamil Nadu and operates 183 of them. The well in Kathiramangalam has been in operation since 2002 and it pumps out 13,000 litres of oil and 38,000 cubic metres of gas each day. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Oil spill by ONGC , Kathiramnagalam, Cauvery delta, TN, India
State or province:Tamil Nadu
Location of conflict:Kathiramangalam
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

ONGC has been exploring the Cauvery basin since 1958. It leases land to the tune of 5 acres for a well, paying Rs 63,000 for an acre of a paddy-field and Rs 72,000 for cane fields. The Company operates 183 oil wells in Tamil Nadu. the Kuthalam-7 is an oil and gas well drilled by ONGC in the year 2000. The well is connected to the nearby Kuthalam-GCS installation. It pumps out 13,000 litres of oil and 38,000 cubic metres of gas from the Kathiramangalam each day. The well has been in operation for the last eight years. ONGC did not have the Environmental Impact Assessment ready to offer to the public, even 20 days after the leak.

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:2,000
Start of the conflict:30/06/2017
Company names or state enterprises:Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) from India
Relevant government actors:Directorate General of Hydrocarbons
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Anti-methane project
The Coastal Resource Centre
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Temporary boycott of company products. The police lathi-charged protesters, arrested 10 people and booked them for sedition and under the Goondas act. The state’s chief minister justified this action and threatened protestors. Few went on a hunger strike demanding the release of those arrested. Around 200 residents resorted to a novel protest by setting up a community kitchen in the open yard of a temple in the village and used firewood for the same instead of LPG supplied by ONGC. Over 3,000 shops were closed in Kumbakonam and adjacent towns in support of Kathiramangalam residents.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Exploration still continues in the region. People are already against the Neduvasal hydrocarbon project and Kathiramangalam crude oil project. Meanwhile, the setting up of 110 wells has been proposed by the ONGC.
Sources & Materials

Novel protest against ONGC in Kathiramangalam village of TN
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Why is Tamil Nadu’s Cauvery Delta fighting against ONGC?
[click to view]

Hydrocarbon activities have harmed delta environment scientific analysis reveals
[click to view]

Two pipeline leaks in 45 days. What is ONGC doing?
[click to view]

Water and soil contaminated by ONGC hydrocarbons in Tamil-Nadu
[click to view]

Incited locals obstructed damage control in Kathiramangalam oil leak: ONGC
[click to view]

Groundwater and soil contaminated say activists, Tests confirm what ONGC has been denying
[click to view]

All you need know about Tamil Nadu's petrochemical hub and how it could affect you
[click to view]

Facing protests, ONGC decides to brazen it out with a message to be grateful
[click to view]

Tamil Nadu unleashing police force as public protests grow
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

9 August 2017. Scroll Staff. Environmental pollution.

Oil spill from ONGC well on June 30 contaminated the soil and water in Kathiramangalam, says report.
[click to view]

TOI (Times of India) Kathiramangalam oil leak: ONGC says TN village’s water woes are caused by drought, not by oil. Pradeep Kumar. Jul 3, 2017
[click to view]

Other comments:Nityanand Jayaram, a researcher based in Chennai, was contacted for primary information.
Meta information
Contributor:Arpita Lulla, Kalpavriksh, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3038
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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