Baghjan oil spill: NGT directs Tinsukia admin to compensate victims
Baghjan oil well (File Photo) Credit: EastMojo image

Tinsukia: The Pollution Control Board, Assam (PCBA) has withdrawn the closure notice issued to Oil India Limited directing it to “close down” all drilling and production operations at Baghjan Oil Field in Assam.

The development came a day after Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressed that he was not happy with the PCBA closure order, and three days after it issued a closure notice to the public sector giant.

“OIL will have to submit a detailed time bound environmental management plan within fifteen days from the date of issue of this letter for environmental mitigation and extinguishing of fire at the Baghjan Oil Field and act accordingly,” the withdrawal notice, signed by member secretary, read.

The notice read: They have to apply for Consent to Operate (CTO) under Section 25 of the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Section 21 of the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 separately for each and every drilling, production and other installations along with environmental management plan and requisite documents within a month.

Pollution Control Board, Assam withdrawal notice (page 1)
Pollution Control Board, Assam withdrawal notice (page 2)

OIL has 22 producing wells, 18 oil wells and 4 gas wells at Baghjan Oil Field in Tinsukia district. These include BGN5 well which is under fire since June 9, two weeks after blowout occurred.

On Monday, OIL wrote a letter to PCBA vide letter number S&E/E/121/814 and submitted affidavits.

A source in PCB, Assam said, OIL will have to submit all the details of hazardous waste generated, disposed and treatment facilities as per the Hazardous & Other waste (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016. “They have to apply for authorization under E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 and take necessary action for proper disposal of E-waste and will have to submit the return as per Batteries (Management & Handling) Rules, 2001 framed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 within July 31,” the source added.

Attempts to speak to PCBA chairman Y Suryanarayana turned futile.

Also Read: Assam: PCB issues closure notice to OIL on Baghjan oil field ops

Welcoming the withdrawal notice, OIL chairman and managing director Sushil Chandra Mishra said, “We are happy that the PCB, Assam has withdrawn their closure notice and cooperated with us in this hour of crisis. “We will look into all the conditions set in the withdrawal notice and fulfil them.”

Earlier on Sunday, addressing media persons in Dibrugarh, Sonowal expressed strong reservation over the Pollution Control Board notice to OIL for closure of Baghjan oil fields, pointing out that life of lakhs of people would seriously be disturbed by this act.

When asked if the state government support PCBA’s decision, Sonowal said, “A lot of industries right from thermal power plant in Namrup, Assam Gas Company, Brahmaputra Gas Cracker Polymer Limited and all the tea gardens of Upper Assam beside every major factories of Upper Assam were directly dependent on the natural gas produced by OIL.

Citing a number of violations by PSU major, PCBA issued the closure notice holding OIL accountable for operating the Baghjan oilfield without the “Consent to Establish and Consent to Operate” permission from PCBA.

Notice by Pollution Control Board, Assam to OIL (Page 1)
Notice by Pollution Control Board, Assam to OIL (Page 2)

It is observed that you have been operating your Baghjan oilfied activities without obtaining prior consent to Establish / consent to operate from PCB, Assam, which is a serious violation of the provisions of Water Act, 1974 and Air Act, 1981 as well as Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,” the order addressed to the Resident Chief Engineer of OIL read.

PCBA allegation against OIL included that Baghjan oilfield is located just 500 metre from Maguri Motapung wetland which is part of eco-sensitive zone of Dibru Saikhowa National Park which is affected severely due to negligence on OIL’s part. “OIL is destroying to aquatic life of the national park and the wetland of endangered species in the name of exploring oil without any mitigation measures,” it said.

In another significant development, OIL has laid the pipeline over the pontoon bridge.

The pipeline laid over the bridge

OIL spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika said, the work for lying of pipeline from reservoir to the well site is almost over. “The requirement of huge quantity of water 24*7 will be key during the operation to cap the well. One of the goal for which army laid the bridge in record time is achieved.”

The fire, meanwhile, continues to rage on the 14 the day.

Also Read: Manipur: In a first, 2 doctors, nurse test positive for COVID-19

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