India's mountainous Mizoram state could soon earn the sobriquet of Kuwait of the Northeast with the region sitting on huge unexplored hydrocarbon reserves.
"We hope crude oil would transform Mizoram into Kuwait in the very near future with the state located in an area believed to be a black gold mine," said H Lallenmawia, head of Mizoram's geology and mining department.
"Oil made Kuwait one of the richest countries in the Arab peninsula and we believe such a transformation could come to Mizoram if the studies about crude potentials in the state are any indicators," Lallenmawia told.
Such a dream could become a reality with several Indian and overseas exploration firms now all set to hunt for crude in about 11,262 sq km area, more than half the total size of the northeastern state, bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh.
India's premier exploration firm, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), is currently carrying out its hunt for crude in an area of about 5,340 sq km.
Three foreign exploration firms France's Geopetrol International Inc, Ukraine's Naftogaz and Cyprus' Suntera Resources Ltd are among six companies that have been recently awarded two on-land blocks in Mizoram for exploration following a global bid by the central government.
The others are state-owned Oil India Limited, Reliance Natural Resources Ltd, and Shivani Oil and Gas Exploration Services Ltd.
The two blocks spread over an area of 5,922 sq km are located in southern Mizoram and have so far not been explored for hydrocarbons.
"The fact that many gas and oilfields have been discovered in the northeast makes us feel very optimistic about strike oil in Mizoram," Lallenmawia said.
A survey by the central petroleum ministry about a decade back said Mizoram falls in the 'proven commercial productivity zone' and rough estimates indicated there could be about 170 million metric tonnes of untapped crude reserves.
"Now the reserve could be even more and, if tapped, the state would witness an economic boom in the days ahead," the official said.
Despite the mountainous terrain and the logistical problems in terms of infrastructural facilities, exploration works in Mizoram may not be too difficult.
"There should not be any big problems despite the hilly conditions. The companies who were entrusted with the exploration works have wide experience in carrying out work in even more hostile terrains," a senior geologist said.
According to the 2001 census, Mizoram's literacy rate is 88.49 per cent, a shade lower than Kerala's 89.91 per cent. India's average literacy rate is 52.21 per cent.
The predominantly Christian state does not have any industry worth the name with the economy revolving around agriculture.