Oil Drilling: Okay or Not Okay?

Muskan Acharya

Figure 1 Source: Nepal News

Did you know that Nepal began conducting organized petroleum exploration in 1972? When the Nepalese government conducted an airborne magnetic survey in the Terai region of Nepal in 1978 and 1979, it found 2% to 20% of Total Organic Carbon (TOC) concentration in the rock.

And in 1982, the Nepali government used this as the impetus to launch a project to promote petroleum exploration by establishing Petroleum Exploration Promotion Project (PEPP). Although the project’s early stages may have seemed hazy and uninteresting, things started to take an odd turn in 2019 when China agreed to participate in oil and gas drilling by carrying out their “Agreement of China Aid on Oil and Gas Resources Survey Project.”

The agreement initiated with exploration and study of oil and gas in 10 districts of Nepal. And on September 9, 2021, a seismic survey in Dailekh proved that there is oil and gas in the district. However, the Covid-19 pandemic caused the Chinese team’s plan to drill 4000 m deep in shambles as the project was abandoned after the survey. So, the question arises what is oil drilling, and is it even necessary in a country like Nepal?

Oil drilling creates a well and drills tubes through the Earth’s surface. The pump, to which the tube is connected, violently extracts the petroleum from underground. The process might seem aggressive to some, but this is happening worldwide. 

Some may contend that oil drilling in Nepal may be advantageous since Nepal may boost its economy by selling its newly discovered fossil fuel at a higher price. However, should a nation like Nepal contribute to a global issue when it is clear that fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change?

According to the contract signed by Nepal with NDCs, Nepal will reduce its reliance on fossil fuels in the transportation sector by 50% by 2050. Nepal also plans to increase the proportion of industrial and commercial sectors that consume energy by 20% and diversify its energy consumption patterns by 2020. But instead of making progress toward these goals, oil drilling in Nepal will cause the country to fall short of its commitments and hurt locals’ interests.

Locals in the region where oil drilling has occurred have reported feeling mentally traumatized. Additionally, they lamented the constant noise and light pollution in their region brought on by the large equipment used in oil drilling. Lethargy and dizzy symptoms were also present among the locals. Earthquakes are also a primary aftereffect of ongoing oil drilling, followed by a disruption of the aquatic and terrestrial ecology near the drilling site.

What do you think is the benefit to Nepal from the discovery and extraction of oil and natural gas supported by a largely capitalist nation like China? A petition on change.org, such as “No Oil Drilling in Nepal,” says there aren’t any benefits because they consider the environmental and psychological harm caused by oil drilling. However, economic savvies may have a different route and believe in the economic status of oil drilling. 

But before making a final selection, it’s crucial to examine the numerous oil drilling chances to acquire the best outcomes in the long run. Therefore, more extensive research is required, which helps categorize the economic and environmental effects oil drilling might do.