Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) had begun drilling operations in the five blocks of the coast off Andhra Pradesh without obtaining the mandated environment clearance in 2002. This was revealed when an official communication was made by a director rank officer in the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to RIL in the same year.
Sethuraman, then vice-president at RIL Delhi and has been written by Dr.G.V .Subramanyam, Director of Impact assessment, ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).
The letter talks about exploratory drilling operations undertaken by RIL in KG-D6 basin off the coast of Andhra Pradesh and the application and documents that was forwarded by RIL to the MoEF for the same.
Dr.Subramanyam’s letter says that RILs application for environmental clearance was not accompanied by details of public hearing which is mandatory under the environmental impact assessment (EIA), 1994.
More importantly, the letter mentions that RIL had started drilling operations without obtaining prior environmental clearance. The content of the letter reads- “It has come to the notice of the ministry that M/S RIL have started drilling operations without obtaining prior environmental clearance. The ministry of petroleum vide their letter no- G-22012/5/2002-)NG.DV dated September 12,2002 informed the ministry that M/S RIL (operator) vide their letter dated 22 August 2002 had indicated to the directorate of hydrocarbons that two wells have been drilled and a third well under drilling in KG-DWN-98/3(KGD6).
According to the communication, the public hearing reports for all the 5 blocks were received by the ministry in September 2002. Whereas the drilling process has already begun in August.
The letter has also been marked to the Secretary,department of environment, Andhra Pradesh, Chairman, Central pollution control board, Chairman, Andhra Pradesh state pollution control board,Chief Conservation of forest, Bangalore, Senior advisor, MoEF and to the monitoring cell of MoEF.
The letter, while restraining RIL from commercially exploiting of hydrocarbon at that stage added that the state pollution control board of Andhra Pradesh had issued the no-objection certificate for this project only on 6 November 2002. This is more than three months after the actual drilling was started by RIL.
When contacted, the spokesperson of RIL had told journalist of a leading magazine, that the company had followed all the required rules. According to the spokesperson “As per the contract it was assumed that environment clearance was given if there was no response for 120 days from the concerned authorities. We waited for close to 200 days before beginning the drilling operation. Also, as per a draft circular, since these wells were beyond 30 kms of the territorial boundary of India, there was no need for a public hearing.”