Chennai, July 17: A joint protest by environmental activists, farmers and citizens caught the attention of Twitterati when Save Kathiramangalam started trending on Twitter on Sunday. The protesters were at loggerheads in the past with the administration to resolve the issue. The protests erupted after a leak in the pipeline of the state owned company, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd was reported in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. The protesters allege the leakage is not only affecting people’s lives but contaminated the ground water in the area. The protesters were joined by many renowned actors on the microblogging website. The protest turned violent early this month when villagers had clashed with Police.

On June 30, officials from the company, police and revenue departments rushed to the spot when they received information of a “leak” of an ONGC pipeline on Kathiramangalam-Panthanallur road. But soon the officials were stopped by the villagers. An intervention by Chief Minister E Palaniswami failed to bring parties to a compromise. The state government held three stages of talks with locals and the ONGC, but they ended in “failure” since the people were not convinced with the company’s explanation. While the villagers demanded complete removal of machinery by the company, ONGC remained adamant on maintaining the pipeline.

Meanwhile, the ONGC, after informing the district administration, took up maintenance activity with police protection on June 2 but an anti-methane federation headed by one Prof Jeyaraman “tried to prevent” it and they were arrested.

Elaborating further, Palaniswami said ONGC has been pumping crude oil from some private land at Kathiramangalam based on a June 2001 mining lease and that “there have been no problems so far.” The ONGC had also moved equipment for taking up maintenance activity in May this year on an oil-well but locals had thought they were meant for methane extraction and staged a protest outside the ONGC office, he said.