Kohima, Aug. 11: Oil has been spilling from abandoned oilfields in a Wokha village for the past 16 years, contaminating soil and water and turning a cluster of little neighbourhoods into a combustible zone.
The catastrophe did not look imminent when ONGC began a survey in Champang in 1963.
The report indicated that there was sufficient hydro carbon (crude oil) deposit along the Nagaland foothills adjoining Assam.
This belt, geographically known as Schuppen belt, yielded results, and ONGC began production in March 1981. The oil giant estimated a geological reserve of 110 million barrels of oil with a recoverable reserve of approximately 1,600 barrels per day.
Work, however, came to a halt in May 1994, following militant threats after extraction of a mere 7 million barrels of oil.
Though production stopped and ONGC left Champang, fields continued to spout oil which seeped into the soil, rendering acres of farmland barren.
Rivers and streams in the lowland areas were contaminated, affecting aquatic life.
With crude petroleum staining large swathes of Champang, villagers fear that even a splinter could lead to a devastating fire.
The landowners of Champang said there has been unabated spillage of petroleum for more than a week.
“But the state government has not done anything to contain the spillage and clean up the area,” M. Yanathung Ngullie, president of Landowners’ Union of Champang, said.
The director of geology and mining, H.K. Chishi, said his department was concerned with the leakage and had sought immediate intervention by ONGC but his pleas had gone unheeded.
The state government does not have adequate technology to stop the leakage, he said.
The roads and bridges leading to Champang are in such bad condition that ONGC finds it difficult to transport heavy machinery to the area, he added.
Champang villagers have other grievances too.
Very little of the oil royalty has gone into local development, they allege.
ONGC has paid a royalty of Rs 33.83 crore to the Nagaland government, but of that only Rs 67 lakh reached the village.
Talks, however, are on between the state government and ONGC to resume operations for exploration and production of petroleum products in Champang oil fields.