31st Aug 2018 THE HINDU Editorial Analysis ha ii
The shale gas challenge On August 1, 2018, the Central government approved a far-reaching policy that allows private and government players to explore and exploit unconventional hydrocarbons (including shale gas) in contract areas that were primarily allocated for extracting conventional hydrocarbons Unlike conventional hydrocarbons that can be sponged out of rocks easily, shale gas is trapped under low permeable rocks. Therefore, a mixture of pressurised water, chemicals, and sand (shale fluid) is required to break low permeable rocks in order to unlock the shale gas reserves. The process requires around 5 to 9 million litres of water per extraction activity, posing a daunting challenge to India's fresh water resources permeable Acknowledging this challenge, the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons
...(DGH) issued a guideline on environment management during shale gas extraction, stating that "overall volume of fracture fluid is 5 to 10 times that of conventional hydraulic fracturing" and "the (fracturing) activities re likely to deplete water sources and cause pollution due to the disposal of flowback (produced) water." However, the guideline falters and states that these challenges will be d while granting environmental clearances as per the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process. The EIA process, however, does not differentiate between conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons, and the DGH acknowledges this issue: "No differentiation has been made in the EIA notification between conventional and unconventional oil and gas exploration in this sector." * Sensing this regulatory gap, the DGH in its guideline proposes five new
...reference points (term of references) relating to water issues in the fracking process that a project proponent must explain while applying for the environmental clearance The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), which generally releases sector-specific manual for environment clearance, is yet to come out with a manual specific to fracking activities. Despite acknowledging the enormity of water requirement for fracking activities, the DGH guideline fails to give a general estimate of water requirement per unit of shale gas over the lifetime of a shale well . A recent study from Duke University observes that from 2011 through 2016, the wateruse,per well in the U.S. increased up to 770% resulting in some shale wells consuming up to 42 million litres of water per well. The study further conveys that over a period of time, the usage of water ..
...dramatically increases for extracting the same amount of shale gas from a well . Shale rocks are usually adjacent to rodks containing useable/ drinking water known as 'aquifers'. As noted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2017, while fracking, the shale fluid could possibly penetrate aquifers leading to methane poisoning of groundwater used for drinking and irrigational purposes . Several researches conclude that such contamination can be controlled, if not avoided, provided a project proponent maintains a distance of 600 m between the aquifers and shale gas fracture zones. Acknowledging this complexity and the myriad structures of aquifers in India, the DGH guideline states that a project proponent must "design and construct wells with proper barriers to isolate and protect groundwater", but misses out on
...broadly describing the nature or properties of a barrier that can be considered 'proper' to isolate and protect the groundwater o Water cycle in a typical fracking process is different than other conventional hydrocarbon production activities. When shale fluid is injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock, 5-50% (depending on the local geology) of the fluid returns to the surface known as 'flowback water'. Return flows continue as oil and gas is pumped from the well. The flowback water is usually methane-contaminated, and therefore it poses different recycling and leakage issues than usual wastewater . The Duke University study says, in the U.S., the flowback and produced water volumes generated within the first year of shale production increased up to 1,440% from 2011 through 2016, The DGH guideline again
....touches upon the exclusive nature of the flowback water but neither proposes any substantive treatment method nor recognises the increase in flowback water during repeated extraction of shale gas from a well over a period of time Implementation of the fracking processes without a consultative thought through process, especially on water usage policy', may result in larger issues including water stress, contamination of groundwater, and related health hazards
Pride and foreign aid The strongest argument by far for refusing foreign aid flows from past policy and practice. It is argued that there is a policy in place since 2004 enunciated by the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to not accept areign aid in times of natural disasters Dr. Singh had stated in the wake of the tsunami in December that year, "We feel that we can cope with the situation on our own and we will take their Ip if needed." The practice thereafter has been to shun foreign aid during natural calamities because the government has been confident of "coping with the situation" using internal sources However, it is important to note that the 2004 statement by Dr. Singh was a political articulation, not a legal directive or policy document. In any case,..
..his statement did not close the door to external aid "we will take their help if needed ") . Former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, in a recent tweet, explained the 2004 decision in the following words: "If memory serves, the 04 decision was to not accept foreign participation in relief but accept it for long term rehabilitation case by case." Since 2004, various policy documents have explicitly and implicitly ggested that the government may accept foreign aid during emergencies. The 2016 National Disaster Management Plan states: "...if the national government of another country voluntarily offers assistance as a goodwill gesture in solidarity with the disaster victims, the Centrl. Government may accept the offer."
The National Policy on Disaster Management of 2009 and the Disaster Management Act of 2005 are both positively inclined to coordinating with external agencies and institutions for disaster relief. The 2009 document even argues thoughtfully sothat "disasters do not recognise geographical boundaries." While the 2004 policy says that foreign ad can be accepted if need be, the 2016 policy document states that the government "may" accept foreign id. The question is whether the situation in Kerala can persuade the Centre operationalise the word "may" in a generous manner . The other argument against accepting foreign aid seems to flow from a sense of national pride: that India is a not a poor country any longer and hence it doesn't need anyone's charity
o Then there is the argument that foreign aid comes with strings attached. Yes, it has in the past, especially developmental assistance from Western nations or the World Bank Aid and loans often came with demands of economic restructuring or resetting governance priorities, and an occasional sermon on human rights. But there is again a fundamental ference between such funding and humanitarian assistance Hence the argument that UAE's disaster relief to Kerala would come with strings attached is ludicrous. Abu Dhabi's rationale for offering aid to erala jis straightforward: the Malayali population in UAE has been crucia in its development, and the aid offer is a recognition of that bond The paranoia of 'foreign hand/s' trying to undermine the Indian has increased over the years, particularly under the current regime: consider the manner in which it cancelled the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act
Money, money, money The Reserve Bank of India's annual report for 2017-18 reveals that 99.3% of currency notes that were demonetised at midnight on November 8, 2016 have returned to the banking system This is only marginally higher than its provisional estimate last year that over 99%-or Rs.15.28 lakh crore worth of the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes -out of the Rs. 15.44 lakh crore that were in circulation at the time had been deposited by June 30, 2017. This makes a couple of things crystal clear The hope that a large chunk of unaccounted money would not return to the system-arguably, the principal reason for the exercise -was almost wholly not achieved. As a result, the plan to transfer the arising surplus...
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