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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Govt to clear security-stuck oil projects

Anupama Airy, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 10, 2013
First Published: 20:52 IST(10/3/2013) | Last Updated: 02:02 IST(11/3/2013)

In what will give a fillip to India's oil and gas exploration and unlock billions of dollars in investments by companies, the government is expected to clear 34 out of the 39 projects pending security clearance. The Cabinet Committee on Investment last month took up the projects for speedy approvals.

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Companies including Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), British Petroleum, Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) have invested heavily in oil and gas projects. 

Five blocks continue to be in "No-Go" areas and the defence ministry has refused to clear these blocks for security reasons. Three blocks belong to ONGC, Cairn India and British Gas respectively.

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"All endeavours were made to arrive at a workable solution in respect of granting security clearance to the "No Go" blocks, keeping in mind the best practices in other countries as well as options for appropriate ring-fencing and a coordinated mechanism for information sharing between stakeholders," said a joint report by the ministries of defence and petroleum on the eight blocks following the committee's directive.

Blocks cleared from the security angle include India's most prolific gas-producing block, the KG-D6, situated off the eastern coast and is being operated by Mukesh Ambani-led RIL.

The newly-constituted Prime minister-led Cabinet Committee on Investment on Wednesday gave the warring petroleum and defence ministries one months' time to sort out differences over 39 oil blocks and free-up investment worth $16 billion (about R88,000 crore).

The move is an attempt by the government to speed-up critical infrastructure projects hit by time and cost overruns, fund shortages, environmental concerns and delays in government clearances.

The committee, under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, constituted to fast-track projects stuck in various stages of procedural and regulatory approvals, had at its first meeting in January directed the ministries of petroleum and defence to sort out differences and give clearances to these blocks at the earliest.

The defence ministry had held back clearances for these blocks as most of of them were close to the DRDO launch pads while some were just off the strategic naval base. The ministry had declared most of these blocks to be no-go areas.

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