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The committee of experts, constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), to examine the blowout at Baghjan in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district, on Tuesday submitted a status report, saying that Oil India Limited (OIL) was operating the oilfield without the mandatory environmental clearance when the mishap took place on May 27, 2020.
The blowout at the natural gas producing well (number five) of OIL at Baghjan led to a massive explosion two weeks later (June 9), and since then the well has been spewing gas even as its flow has been diverted to four other locations.
The well is situated close to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park (DSNP).
“It was therefore inferred, prima facie, that on the day of the blowout of Well Baghjan-5 on 27.05.2020 and explosion on 09.06.2020, OIL did not have the mandatory consents including the CTE (consent to establish)/NOC and/or the CTO (consent to operate) under the Water Act, Air Act and/or the Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016,” the panel stated in the progress report.
The committee, headed by former Gauhati High Court judge Brojendra Prasad Katakey, was formed on June 24, 2020, after a Kolkata-based activist Bonani Kakkar, and Wildlife and Environment Conservation Organisation, approached the tribunal.
In the preliminary report, the panel found that there was a “mismatch between planning and execution” by OIL which led to the well blowout that caused “extensive damage” to the environment, flora, fauna and humans.
The committee, in its latest report, concluded that OIL had not been granted the mandatory consent for drilling operations at Baghjan Well-5 during the years 2006-07, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2019-20.
“Therefore, it clearly supports the conclusions drawn in the preliminary report and establishes the fact that OIL does not have the mandatory authorisation,” the committee stated in the report.
“Such omissions on the part of OIL amounts to a clear violation not merely of the statutory mandate, but also the conditions that have been stipulated under Clause 10 (111) and (vi) of the Environment Clearance dated 11.05.2020 with respect to the extension drilling and testing of hydrocarbons at seven locations under the DSNP area,” it stated.
The committee, which is likely to submit a final report by December 15, also recommended payment (compensation) of Rs 25 lakh to 173 families and Rs 20 lakh to 439 families identified by the Tinsukia district administration.