PESHAWAR, Feb 26: The Environmental Protection Agency, NWFP, will shortly hold a public hearing in the Karak district to get input from local people about possible negative effects of the oil and gas exploration activities in the Terri Essak area, officials said.

A Hungarian oil company, MOL, is in the process of launching oil and gas exploration activities in Khumari village of the Terri Essak area. The company, which has also detected considerable gas reserves in the Gurguray area of the district Karak, has recently submitted an 'Environment Impact Assessment' report to the EPA, NWFP, seeking approval before formally launching drilling operations, sources said.

"The EPA is reviewing the EIA conducted by an Islamabad-based consultant and a public hearing is also being arranged," said an official of the provincial government.

The public hearing was meant to get local community's recommendations about measures they want the government and the foreign firm to take to address their concerns in this regard.

Official sources said that the hearing is expected to be held on March 9. "There are some negative impact owing to drilling but they are unavoidable because of the potential economic benefits," said an officer of the NWFP environment department.

The drilling operations, the officer said, were likely to have a negative effect on the large wildlife game reserves in the Terri Essak area. Oil and gas exploration activities have been focussed on the southern districts of the NWFP, especially the Karak area, during the past few years.

Apart from gas reserves found in the Gurguray area - estimated to be sufficient for 12 years - large deposits of oil and gas have also been found in the Shakkar Darra area in the Kohat district.

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