Nagaland: Need to resume oil exploration, production activities in state
Leader of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) Kuzholuzo Nienu

Kohima: Naga People’s Front (NPF) Kuzholuzo Nienu leader has urged for resumption of petroleum exploration in Nagaland. 

On the first day of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) session, on Tuesday, Nienu said the special status that Nagaland enjoys under Article 371A has led to conflicts between land owners, civil societies, the state government, oil companies and even the Government of India (GoI).

He recalled a resolution passed by the NLA in 2010, conferring itself with the power to make laws and regulations concerning the oil and gas sector. Narrating the events in chronological order, Nienu said the Nagaland Petroleum and Natural Gas, Rules and Regulations (NPNGRR) was passed by the NLA in 2012 wherein the Nagaland government issued an Expression of Interest (EOI) for 11 oil and gas blocks in Nagaland.

However, the Centre termed the NP&NGRR 2012 as unconstitutional and invalid, citing that the oil and gas sector comes under the Union List.

“Nevertheless, the government of Nagaland awarded the Champang block to the MOGP, an oil company, which resulted in the Lotha Hoho filing a PIL in the Kohima Bench of the Guwahati High Court,” he said.

The matter between the state government and the Lotha Hoho was then resolved with the signing of a Memorandum of understanding (MoU). Nienu said that since November 2018, when the Kohima Bench of the Guwahati High Court filed a Suo Moto Case against NP&NGRR 2012, all hope of exploration and production activities of oil and gas in the state stopped.

“However, to find a way for resuming oil and gas exploration activities in the state, the Union Minister for Petroleum initiated a bipartite agreement with the state government, the MOU of which is expected to be finalised and signed very soon,” he informed.

But since exploration activities may take an average of five to seven years, he suggested that the mindset of the stakeholders, including the state government, should be on monetising the existing oilfields to get immediate returns, adding that it will be pertinent for the state to formulate policies where it can have a Participating Interest (PI ) of 10 per cent to 15 per cent in the already existing oil fields like Champang and Tissori.

He added that oil is no longer considered a primary energy source for the future, and due to climate change and advancements in technology, the world is shifting towards cleaner, sustainable, and renewable energy.

Nienu also said as oil companies like Oil India Limited (OIL) and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) are now shifting towards the production of clean energy, it is time that the state government took concrete steps to resume oil and gas exploration and production in Nagaland before the “golden liquid” becomes redundant and loses its utility, and thereby its market value.

The legislator added that the use of the “golden liquid” is expected to drastically come down by 2035 throughout the world, including India, and there are projections that by 2050, the use of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas would completely stop.

Minister of Geology and Mining Kashiho Sangtam informed that petroleum exploration commenced in Nagaland during 1971 and oil was first struck in Changpang-Tissori in 1973. He added that in Changpang, 29 oil wells were drilled, but were suspended in May 1994.

Sangtam said that Nagaland’s Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio met the Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, and subsequent meetings were held with the Secretary, Petroleum and Natural Gas, and the Union Minister for PNG, GOI, in New Delhi.

He said that the Union Minister had suggested the state government and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas come up with a bipartite MoU, to facilitate the resumption of exploration and production of petroleum & natural gas in the state, pending resolution of the matter in the High Court.

Further, he added that the MoPNG has shared the draft Bipartite MoU between MoPNG, the Government of India, and the Government of Nagaland and that the state government has forwarded the matter to the Advocate General Nagaland, and is awaiting his response.

Also read | Why Nagaland CM Rio thinks Kohima-Dimapur four-lane project is going to fail

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