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Views & Reviews

Are We Going to Miss the Bus to Economic Development This Time?

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By EMN Updated: Sep 30, 2021 9:54 pm
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Considering the changing scenario for accelerated exploration and production (E&P) activities in Northeast regionby the central government, we the undersigned Naga Officers working (outside Nagaland)in a public Sector upstream oil and gas Company wish to put forward the following points for information of every nagainorder to create awareness and garner public support inthe context of oil and gas business in Nagaland.

While acknowledging the sacrifices made by our elders and older generation to preservethe Nagatraditions, culture, land and mineral resources in the past; we are also seeing that the present reality that we Nagas face is quite different from what all of us aspire to be. The younger generation wants economic independence and development for sustainability and purposeful engagement.The world around us is changing so rapidly that we cannot effort to remain in isolation while the rest of the world is moving into more advanced forms of development and progress.

Firstly, all of us are aware that almost thirty years have passedby since Nagaland has come to a complete standstill w.r.t.oil exploration and production activities within the State. We also know that the state is in a limbo mired with complications over who owns ‘land, mineral and its resources’. Is it is the Central or State Government, local community or the individual land owners? There appears to be a confusion over interpretation of Article 371(A) vs Article 246 of the Constitution as to who should prevail over the other in this context. Meanwhile, theNagaland Legislative Assembly, in exercise of its powers conferred under Article 371A(1)(a), passed a Resolution rendering all the Acts of the Parliament that govern Petroleum and Natural Gas inapplicable to the State of Nagaland and went on to framethe “Nagaland Petroleum and Natural Gas Rules, 2012”.This complex geo-political issue then led to the present Court case PIL (Suo Motto) litigation which again has a connection to an memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the state government and LothaHoho (LH) for amendment of NP&NG Regulations and Rules 2012which is yet to be implemented.

Notwithstanding the above, the moot point is that Nagaland Government (meaning the Nagas in general) is losing out on major financial benefits, long term gainful employment and business opportunities that can be generated out of oil exploration & production activities.For example, on an average, our neighbour State Assam earns 2000 crores as royalty from oil and gas alone. This is excluding the hundreds of crores spend by the oil PSU in employment, contract works, development activities besides the enormous infrastructure development and other CSR activities carried out in its operational areas. While our leaders and policy decision makers have been raising the issue at appropriate levels, we do not really know howlong it will take for a clarity or judgement to emerge…maybe months, years or even a lifetime. However, we should all realize thatwe are losing precious time in the waiting. We may miss the bus leading to economic development and industrialization.

Secondly, in the recently concluded conference on oil and gas opportunities in North Eastern Region under the theme ‘Exploration & Production (E&P) investment opportunities in the North East’held on21st September,2021atGuwahati, theUnion Minister of Petroleum and Natural GasShri Hardeep Singh Purideclared that oil and gas projects worth Rs 1 lakh Crore has been approved for North Eastern Region and that the projects will be carried out and likely be completed by 2025.He said that North East Region (NER), with its abundant natural resources, rich cultural heritage and huge opportunities for growth is central to the country’s development agenda. The North-Eastern States of India are perceived to be highly prospective based on available geo-scientific information. Henceample opportunities for potential oil and gas finds through accelerated exploration exists in the region. He said that the outlook of E&P business in North East Region is indeed promising and urged upon all stakeholders to actively participate and become part of the national E&P enterprise which is set to gather momentum in the days ahead since it will act as a catalyst for the envisaged future growth of the region. Will Nagaland be part of this growth engine that will accelerate economic development.

Thirdly and more worrying is the fact that usage of fossil fuel as energy may not last very long as other countries are already shifting towards renewable energy. Eg.On September 24th, 2021,Tata Motors has announced that it has now crossed the 10,000unit sales milestone with its electric vehicle (EV) portfolio.Mumbai is already on its way of converting its public city buses into electric bus fleets. There are plans to turn public bus fleets in Aurangabad, Nashik, Pune and Nagpur into electric bus fleets as well. Delhi will start receiving its first fleet of 300 e-buses from January 2022.The move for renewable energy has already begun and will pick up tempo in the near future. At the same time, energy companies are also diversifying their E&P core activities by investing huge capital for research and production for cleaner& renewable energy to meet global energy demand. Under such a scenario, we Nagas stand in a very critical juncture. Do we still decide to wait? Let us also keep in mind that it usually takes 3-4 years upto even 10 years to explore, evaluate the commerciality aspect of an oil discovery before actual production happens. This again will depend on whether crude oil will still retain its value and relevance by the time we reach this stage.

Towards the above, the present generation should not be deprived of economic activities and benefits that can accrue if the process of industrialization takes place in Nagaland. It is not only the State and Central Government, but the role and participation of every Naga to be aware of the oil and gas business and support this move before another demonetization-like-situation takes place. It will be a good option for the nagas to go with the flow and support the Central Government’s strategic initiative as it is giving topmost priority for accelerating economic development and industrialization through investments in the NER. This is the opportune time for the Nagas to take advantage or else we may be left behind again.

M.A.Niphi,DGM (Admin-Frontier Basin), R.Jonathan,GM (Geology), Benjamin Jamio,DGM (Oil & Gas Pl.), Moakumzuk Ao,DGM (Field Engg.), Temjenmongba Jamir, DGM (Field Comm.), Benthungo Ngullie,DGM(Well Logging), Lanuwabang Jamir,Dy. Chief Chemist, Avi Richa,Dy. Chief Engr. (Well Logging), Nchum Ngullie, Chief Manager (Security)
(The authors are all employed with Oil India Ltd and based in Duliajan,Assam)

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By EMN Updated: Sep 30, 2021 9:54:27 pm