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Shale gas exploration: emerging issues in water law and policy

Student name: Ms Aishwarya Sharma
Guide: Dr Vishnu Konoorayar
Year of completion: 2020


Currently, India is constantly striving to become an energy secure nation in order to cater to the needs of rapidly developing infrastructure sector as well as the domestic needs. In order to achieve this goal, India is working towards developing a more diverse energy basket with minimum share of the energy generated from coal and venturing into the other upcoming areas of development in natural gas sector.

As a result of the Shale Revolution in the United States of America, many countries, including India are trying to tap their shares of shale gas. It has been pointed out by the American researchers that Indian basins are rich in shale gas and oil. However, this poses serious challenges and complications to the “energy-water nexus”. This is so because the extraction activities require huge amount of water and the results cannot be determined. Additionally, mixing of the methane-rich shale fluid leads to further contamination of the groundwater reserves available in India. Therefore, it becomes necessary to delve deeper into these glitches in order to have a clear picture about the impact of such activities on the rationing of water in an already water stressed country, India.

The Indian economy is witnessing a persistent rise in the demand for natural gas with every passing year. This has raised the interests of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to explore more and more in the field of unconventional sources of natural gas i.e. shale gas. Therefore, in order to encourage project developers and private parties to invest in the exploration process, the regulatory bodies are on the path of making the procedure to avail licenses much easier and flexible. This means that without proper scientific and technical know-how related to the hydraulic fracturing, a green signal has been granted to various project developers to explore in the oil and gas sector. Such challenges may result in extreme consequences if not regulated at an early stage.

Therefore, this research aims to clarify the policy gaps existing between the exploration and production policy for the shale gas vis-à-vis the water policy with regards to surface as well as groundwater usage.