Glimpse of the contaminate portion of a water body near the gas well site

Tinsukia: A Tinsukia-based NGO, Wildlife and Environment Conservation Organisation, has moved the eastern bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Kolkata for compensation to the affected families and damages caused to biodiversity and ecology due to gas well blowout at Baghjan in Assam’s Tinsukia district.

The petitioner, who is the director of the NGO, Dambaru Chutia, has made Union of India (Through secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas), State of Assam (through its principal secretary), Oil India Limited, Assam Pollution Control Board and Central Pollution Control Board as parties to the case.

Talking to this correspondent, the legal advisor of the NGO, Sant Rakshit Manu, said, the petition has been successfully filed before the NGT (vide diary number 1902122001272020).

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Devastated houses near the accident site

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“We have prayed for compensation to the victims for the loss of health and livelihood and damages to their property due to the Baghjan-5 gas well blowout incident. This is due to the lethargic attitude of OIL, and the government had only further worsened, resulting in flash fires and fumes and engulfing a large area around the Baghjan well.”

“We have also prayed for exemplary damages towards large scale destruction of ecology and biodiversity in an ecologically fragile region and towards restitution of environment around the gas well,” added Manu.

Manu said, “Our petition includes an interim prayers to provide safe quarantined facilities to the victims immediately instead of being choked into packed relief camps, and for interim compensation to the victims and displaced persons in a time-bound manner.”

Affected people being shifted to safer locations

“The NGO, has been objecting to the gas well’s operation in the area since its inception. They have made written objections to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for Baghjan Gas well, which had omitted the existence of ecologically sensitive wetlands adjacent to the Baghjan-5 facility,” Manu said. Adding, “All the objections and prayers so far have fallen into deaf ears leading to the inevitable unfortunate event.”

Chutia alleged, “it is pertinent to mention here that the Baghjan-5 gas well begun operations in the year 2006, but it received its environmental clearances on post facto basis.”

“The clearances were given only because a lot of money of the public exchequer had already been spent on the project, a point that was rued upon, even by the members of National Board of Wildlife in its report for clearance to the pipeline project at Baghjan-5 Gas well project,” he added.

The “blowout” occurred on May 27 at a producing gas well number 5 of Oil India Limited. This is situated close to the national park and the famous migratory birds habitat Maguri-Motapung Beel. While work-over operations for extracting gas from new sand (oil and gas-bearing reservoir) at a depth of 3,729 metres was on, leaving natural gas and condensate oil to gush out and spill all around, turning an entire area of 1.5 kms, including Baghjan village, into a gas chamber. The well caught fire on June 9 leaving a trail of destruction around the well.

Manu also said, Birinchi Neog, an active member of WECO, played a pivotal role along with Dambaru Chutia in gathering resources and documents for the filing of the application at NGT.

“Delhi-based advocates Ranu Purohit and Priyadarshi Chaitanyashil took up the matter pro bono, after getting to know the plight of the people affected by the gas blowout,” he added.

When contacted, OIL spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika said, “We are yet to receive any summon from NGT. Once we receive it, our lawyers will handle it in the court of law. We do not have anything to comment at this point of time.”

“Earlier, a PIL was filed at the Gauhati High Court and the same was quashed by the court during the hearing,” added Hazarika.

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