Assam’s Burhi Dihing river on fire for the third day in a row Credit: EastMojo image

Tinsukia: A fire reportedly broke out in Burhi Dihing river at Digholibil area near Sasoni village in Dibrugarh district, around 25 km from where the leakage was reported, for the third day in a row, suggesting that the accumulation of crude oil is still active.

The river in Assam has been on fire for the past couple of days due to a technical glitch in a crude pipeline belonging to Oil India Limited.

Speaking with EastMojo, the resident chief executive of Oil India Limited (Duliajan) Pranjit Deka said, there was a technical glitch at a Central Tank Farm (CTF) located in Oil India Limited (OIL)’s Field Headquarters in Duliajan. “As a result, the incoming pressure increased which led to leakage of crude oil at two to three places,” the chief executive added.

“The glitch was resolved and the leakage in pipeline was repaired in few hours,” he said.

However, according to local people, a good amount of crude oil has accumulated in Burhi Dihing river which caught fire on Saturday. “Huge flames were seen coming out from the river triggering panic in the neighborhood,” the local said

“The fire doused automatically on Saturday, but again ignited on Sunday. It again caught fire today after it doused automatically yesterday,” Bhaskar Saikia, officer-in-charge of Naharkatia police station, told this correspondent.

The spilling of crude oil and fire is posing a great threat to river’s ecology and aquatic animals including fishes,” Mridu Paban Phukan, a Naharkatia-based environmental activist said EastMojo, adding, “The OIL releases industrial waste from CTF into the leader drain, which opens up in Burhi Dihing river, and is acting as a slow poison for the river.”

In a press released, Oil India Limited said, “On January 28, around 10:30 am, an incident took place at the Central Tank Farm (CTF). There was sudden closure of remote operated shut off valves and motor operator valves of inlets and outlets of all the crude oil storage tanks.”

“Consequently, there was pressure build-up in the incoming lines to the tanks and it was observed that leaks developed at five points within the periphery of the CTF. Leaks also developed at two points in the incoming crude oil delivery line of one of the field installation near Duliajan,” the release read.

Communication from OIL said that immediate action was taken up to rectify the leakages and restoration jobs were undertaken. Actions were also initiated to recover and clean the spilled crude oil in and around the affected site. “An inquiry committee has been set up to find out the underlying root causes of the incident and suggest for remedial measures,” they added.

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“It may be noted that the spilled crude oil at one of the incoming crude oil delivery line which had raptured due to the incident in CTF, somehow managed to trickle into the nearby Buridihing river. It appears that some miscreants set fire to the oil floating on the river. Luckily there has been no casualties and the fire has doused on its own,” the release said.

“The situation is absolutely under control now. A joint team led by circle officer of Tengakhat circle in Dibrugarh district, State Pollution Control Board, fishery department and experts from OIL is accessing any possible damage to the environment and necessary actions will be initiated on the basis of the observations of this expert committee,” the release added.

Speaking with EastMojo, Dibrugarh SP Sreejith T said, “The locals use hand made crackers for fishing, and the same might worked as a trigger, for crude oil to catch fire. There is no miscreant activity involved.”

However, there is no mention of loss incurred to OIL, nor the details of steps taken to recover the spilled oil and clean the river.

Meanwhile, OIL spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika said, “OIL only releases what is permissible as per government mandates. It may be noted that the leader drain in Duliajan services the entire population of the town including residents outside the oil housing and industrial area.”

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