Sudipta Majumdar, Ph.D.
Amity Business School
Amity University Kolkata

Mr. Amit Mathur paid a farmer 10,000 INR to get permission to drill for oil on a farm in Trombay (Maharashtra, India) and promised to remove the black ooze that would damage the crops. Mr. Mathur was lucky as he found large oil reserves in that area. Big oil companies immediately acquired the surrounding land and Trombay became one of the major petroleum producing regions of India. In a span of a few years, it had started distributing 12 billion barrels of oil and 113 billion cubic feet of natural gas mined in Trombay. This helped companies gain high profits. It also helped in the industrial development of the surrounding area as well as the state (Maharashtra).

But it has raised the pollution levels of Trombay extensively. The oil refineries at Trombay dumped tons of waste containing potentially toxic and heavy metals like carbon and organic chemicals into water for many years. The water in the surrounding areas of Trombay was contaminated by the toxic wastes. The towns near Trombay were also affected as the industrial wastes were dumped off in old wells in the adjoining areas. The off-shore drilling sites dumped the wastes into nearby canal water. People of Trombay had to face serious water pollution problems. Out of the 54 water wells, 50 contained heavy metal deposits.

Much of the pollution associated with oil and gas production was because of the salt and the drilled out mud. In Trombay, the petroleum reserves were found in salt domes and to pull the oil or gas from there, one has to drill the salt out of these domes. When a well is drilled, thousands of litres of brine (salt water) come to the surface. This is then pumped into disposal wells that have been drilled into porous rocks. Drilling mud, another major source of pollution was used to lubricate the drilling bits and flush the drill cuttings to the surface. The mud is a mixture of viscous clay, weighing agents, and chemicals used in different proportions. Weighing agents and heavy metals such as barium, chromium, arsenic, lead, titanium and zinc were added to solidify the rock and prevent it from collapsing. The chemicals used were carbolic acid, caustic soda, ammonia bisulphate, zinc chromate, formaldehyde, asbestos, asphalt and phenols. One third of the drilling mud was forced into rock formations, while the rest of the mud was recycled. The underground water supplies were polluted by the salt, heavy metals and chemicals disposed of by the petroleum industry.

In Trombay, environmentalists found unacceptable levels of salt, heavy metals and chemicals in drinking water. It was two to three times more than what was found in the drinking water of rural farms and small towns throughout the southern part of Mumbai. As a result, many people living in Trombay suffered serious health problems. Many died of cardio pulmonary arrest and with liver cancer. In a nationwide survey conducted on death caused by cancer, the centre for oil and gas production in the state ranked in the top 5%.

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As you read and analyze this case study, your reflective comments are requested on all of the following:

  • Who are the stakeholders, and how are they impacted both positively and negatively?
  • What knowledge and skills are needed to implement sophisticated, appropriate, and workable solutions to the complex global problems facing the world today?
  • What interdisciplinary perspectives would help identify innovative and non-obvious solutions?
  • What insights can you articulate, based on your culture and other cultures with which you are familiar, to help understand your worldview and enable greater civic engagement?
  • What is your position on the right thing(s) to do?

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Comments

  • The stakeholders in this oil drilling predicament are the farmer who allowed for oil to be drilled, the oil companies who came in to drill, the citizens in Trombay, and those who cared to conduct a survey on the matter. In order to combat problematic situations such as this, every single stakeholder needs to make clear what they deem the most valuable: environmental concern or economic growth. Once that is established, you can then see the viewpoints of others and reach peaceful, and more importantly, safe outcomes. I believe that it is very possible to have economic growth with environmental concern, but if I were asked which is more valuable, I would say environmental concern. After all, there can be no growth without the environment that gives us ideas, inspiration, and provision.

    Those who possess the ability to enact change must also understand the inner workings of the oil companies and why they make choices like drilling and expending waste. It is easy to say that spilling waste into water is a terrible thing for the environment and that companies are only doing it for convenience, but they might have limited options. At the end of the day, we as citizens use oil for cars, buses, plastics, and more; refining that oil will, without a doubt, produce physical waste that needs to be repositioned in a way that can make room for more refined oil.

    The perspectives of well-informed citizens who are being affected by waste pollution would help bring in alternative ideas. Naturally, they would want the oil companies gone and put away, but once they are well informed of the situation and the reasoning behind it along with how it all started in the first place (by another citizen farmer), they will be willing to offer up ideas that won't drastically hinder the oil companies as well as restoring their community.

    The oil company must re-direct where they dump their waste; perhaps there is a place on land that could benefit from toxic chemicals like how compost uses decomposed organic material for fertilizers. Perhaps scientists could use the chemicals to perform experiments that better society. Lastly, the company needs to make a commitment to gradually help restore the community that they had a part in messing up because during the process, lives were lost, and no life can be priced. All lives are invaluable; in addition, the publicity the company could obtain from helping this community and publicizing it could bring them more positive attention and get them what they sought from the beginning: more money.
  • There are two stakeholders in this situation, the first stakeholder of course is the oil company. The company’s main prerogative of course is to earn money by drilling and selling oil. The other stakeholder in this situation is of course the people of Trombay. The citizens main stake of course lies within the safety of Trombay, therefore if the water in Trombay is not safe to drink then of course Trombay shouldn’t be a safe place to live. However that is not to say that some profits made from oil in Trombay work their way back into Trombay. Skills needed to solve this problem would require that individuals be willing to sacrifice profit in order to maintain a higher environmental standard, such as having a higher environmental practice while drilling for the oil. This of course could be forced upon by the government of India who could levy a tax against these oil companies if they don’t use the proper practices. Obviously the world can’t just look at oil and gas and say “no” and then flip over to 100% renewable energy on a dime. Since the world can’t just flip on a dime we need to figure out a way to be more self-sustaining. What if oil companies could drill oil without contaminating the water? What if instead of trying to figure out a way to rectify the current process to cause less damage we create a new oil drilling process that is inherently cleaner. We could look toward plants and bacteria in order to find a more sophisticated way to pull the liquid from the ground. Although I don’t believe it's ethical to take advantage of an underdeveloped area and extract their oil and damage their land, it’s not that simple of a problem. The world has a huge oil demand and if that demand is not met there are problems for everyone, however figuring out how to lower the demand for oil globally is a whole other problem. I do firmly believe however that there should be a global standard that must be followed to try to minimize the amount of damage done to the environment during an oil digging process as an attempt to keep people safe.
  • What happened in Trombay shows how rapid industrialization and urbanization is destroying the planet. People who are affected due to the planting of oil factories in Trombay are the stakeholders in this case. The direct stakeholders are Mr. Amit Mathur, the Oil Companies and the people living in Trombay. There are also indirect stakeholders who are somewhat affected. Some examples are the other population of India, for whom the gas prices reduced and other government officials. The ones who profited and are the beneficiaries are Mr. Mathur and the oil companies. However, the people living there are negatively affected due to the pollution and industrialization that was caused. They lost their land, jobs and do not have safe drinking water and food.

    Addressing the complex issues in Trombay requires a range of expertise and skills. The issue is not only about dealing with pollution but also about providing enough employment so that the people can sustain themselves. Understanding Environmental Science and the impact of the industrialization on the environment can assess the impact of oil drilling, while engineers develop cleaner extraction technologies. Good public health safety rules and development in the medical field are also necessary. Legal and policy experts need to create and enforce proper regulations. Economic insights are also crucial for balancing development with sustainable practices. An interdisciplinary perspective would also be needed to approach the problem from different angles and to find multidimensional solutions. We need to weigh the environmental cost of placing oil refineries to the economic and social benefits. So, a solution which considers all of the stakeholders in mind and works towards the benefit of all of them is necessary.

    According to the cultures I am familiar with, proper awareness programs and protests should be held to enable greater civic engagement. I think the government officials of Mumbai should take some action against this and form proper rules and regulations. The people of Trombay should also be given some compensation for this. The locals should also have some influence in this. They should be the involved in the planning process and should be given proper employment opportunities.
  • What happened in Trombay shows how rapid industrialization and urbanization is destroying the planet. People who are affected due to the planting of oil factories in Trombay are the stakeholders in this case. The direct stakeholders are Mr. Amit Mathur, the Oil Companies and the people living in Trombay. There are also indirect stakeholders who are somewhat affected. Some examples are the other population of India, for whom the gas prices reduced and other government officials. The ones who profited and are the beneficiaries are Mr. Mathur and the oil companies. However, the people living there are negatively affected due to the pollution and industrialization that was caused. They lost their land, jobs and do not have safe drinking water and food.

    Addressing the complex issues in Trombay requires a range of expertise and skills. The issue is not only about dealing with pollution but also about providing enough employment so that the people can sustain themselves. Understanding Environmental Science and the impact of the industrialization on the environment can assess the impact of oil drilling, while engineers develop cleaner extraction technologies. Good public health safety rules and development in the medical field are also necessary. Legal and policy experts need to create and enforce proper regulations. Economic insights are also crucial for balancing development with sustainable practices. An interdisciplinary perspective would also be needed to approach the problem from different angles and to find multidimensional solutions. We need to weigh the environmental cost of placing oil refineries to the economic and social benefits. So, a solution which considers all of the stakeholders in mind and works towards the benefit of all of them is necessary.

    According to the cultures I am familiar with, proper awareness programs and protests should be held to enable greater civic engagement. I think the government officials of Mumbai should take some action against this and form proper rules and regulations. The people of Trombay should also be given some compensation for this. The locals should also have some influence in this. They should be the involved in the planning process and should be given proper employment opportunities.


    Addressing the complex issues in Trombay requires a range of expertise and skills. The issue is not only about dealing with pollution but also about providing enough employment so that the people can sustain themselves. Understanding Environmental Science and the impact of the industrialization on the environment can assess the impact of oil drilling, while engineers develop cleaner extraction technologies. Good public health safety rules and development in the medical field are also necessary. Legal and policy experts need to create and enforce proper regulations. Economic insights are also crucial for balancing development with sustainable practices. An interdisciplinary perspective would also be needed to approach the problem from different angles and to find multidimensional solutions. We need to weigh the environmental cost of placing oil refineries to the economic and social benefits. So, a solution which considers all of the stakeholders in mind and works towards the benefit of all of them is necessary.

    According to the cultures I am familiar with, proper awareness programs and protests should be held to enable greater civic engagement. I think the government officials of Mumbai should take some action against this and form proper rules and regulations. The people of Trombay should also be given some compensation for this. The locals should also have some influence in this. They should be the involved in the planning process and should be given proper employment opportunities.
  • There are two main stakeholders in this case, Mr. Amit Mathur and Oil Companies who were positively impacted as they gained large profits from the Oil discovery and the farmers and local residents who had to deal with the pollution of their water, even leading to deaths. A skilled enviromental engineer would be able to work on a solution as they would specialize in devising technology that would protect the environment while drilling and refining the oil. Another skill would be making policies, as this would define the boundaries the oil companies couldn’t cross while dealing with the enviroment. Now having greater knowledge in enviromental science as well as public health would give a good basis to synthesis a non-obvious solution as they would know how to minimize the effect on the environment through obtaining oil enough to ensure public health isn’t compromised. Gathering local activists as well as educating others on what the actual situation is and how to combat it would allow for greater civic engagement as those with direct experience with pollution would know what actions to take to stop their issues. I believe the right thing to do is to get government regulations involved to ensure that the oil companies are held accountable for their actions, but to also enforce ethical buisness practices that prioritize public and enviromental health.
    • I completely agree with your response. India in this case should have regulations with big fines or punishments to reinforce rules. It will not get better until people learn from their mistakes. Innocent citizens are paying the price just for the big corporations profits.
  • When you dissect the word ‘stakeholder’, it’s definition breaks down to “someone who holds a stake”. You can think of this as someone who has an interest in the result of an event. So, we could say one type of stakeholder are those who sought to drill for oil in Trombay and make a profit, while the citizens themselves are stakeholders as well, since their well-being, and lives depend on the safety of Trombay itself. Some skills needed to create a more sustainable and environmentally safe solution would be to not sacrifice ethical environmental practices in exchange for profit. Like many environmental disasters, this situation could’ve been avoided with foresight and a sense of the consequences of these actions. An interdisciplinary perspective that would help find less obvious solutions would be from the local Trombay population. They have a vested interest, Trombay is their home, so considering their perspectives in deciding what should be done would be crucial in trying to avoid any repercussions from the drilling. I’ve always had a sense of consequences for actions, so being able to hold those responsible accountable for their actions would allow for more planning and considering the effect of their actions. Also, those who live in the area where something like this would occur should have a say. I don’t mean the politicians or those with power, but the people themselves. If something that could possibly have disastrous consequences if done incorrectly is transpiring, then the locals should be able to influence the process and be able to work with the companies to ensure a fair and equitable outcome for all the parties involved. I believe that careful and meticulous planning needs to happen before any action is taken. Also, risk analysis and being privy to the possible negative outcomes shouldn’t be understated as well.
  • There could be two types of stakeholders when we think about big oil companies, internal and external. Internal is associated with the people most widely involved in the drilling process such as the employees and the owner. At the same time, there are external stakeholders such as the community where this process occurs. These people are affected by the actions/consequences of the internals. The main goal of the internal stakeholders is profit. These people will do anything in their power to make the most revenue possible while being able to get away with the pollution they inflict on the community. The community is negatively impacted by the neglect of the big oil companies and their health is sacrificed. On the other hand, good business is considered an asset to this community in Trombay, India, and without it, their economy would falter. With that being said, we must begin to devote our time to cleaner ways to extract oil. This calls for a large effort across many professions such as petroleum engineers, chemical engineers, oil field workers/ operators, and paleontologists. We must gather a large skill set and differing perspectives to allow for a great movement towards cleaner oil extraction.
    The right thing to do is to stop the exploitation of this less developed region of the world and increase efforts through donations and volunteers to help restore clean water to these communities. Unfortunately, the truth is that these oil companies can't be stopped. but as engineers, we face the challenge of shifting the direction of the oil industry to rely on alternative methods to produce the products that we consume every day. Finding solutions to the problems they have caused needs to occur at a faster rate than ever. Communities such as Tromboy India are most evidently being affected as the companies don't care as much to cover their tracks, but these exploitations of human health are occurring everywhere in all kinds of economic demographics.
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  • The Trombay oil drilling case unveils a spectrum of stakeholders and consequences, prompting contemplation on various aspects. Positive impacts include economic gains for Mr. Amit Mathur and big oil companies, fostering local economic growth and job creation. Conversely, farmers and residents face detrimental effects such as environmental degradation, water pollution, and health issues from toxic waste. The environmental toll is evident through extensive pollution, impacting water and soil quality.Solving this complex issue demands diverse knowledge and skills. Expertise in environmental science and engineering is vital for sustainable waste disposal, while legal proficiency ensures robust regulations to prevent environmental abuse. Public health knowledge is essential for addressing health repercussions, and adept community engagement skills empower locals in decision-making.Interdisciplinary perspectives are pivotal. Environmental science informs strategies for pollution mitigation, economics balances growth with sustainability, and sociology fosters community involvement.Cultural insights and civic engagement are indispensable. Cultural awareness aids in crafting inclusive, culturally sensitive solutions, and civic engagement fosters collaboration between communities, industry, and government.Positioning on the right course involves balancing economic development and environmental conservation, championing community empowerment, and enforcing stringent regulations to hold industries accountable. In conclusion, the Trombay case necessitates a holistic approach considering stakeholders, interdisciplinary insights, and cultural nuances for sustainable solutions.
    • Hi, I really like your analysis. I like how you were able to display such a broad list of professions, it really highlights how much of a well-coordinated and well-intentioned effort it would take to prevent and restore this community. These efforts could translate across the entire world!
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