Children eating food at a relief camp at Dighal Tarang ME School

Tinsukia: Following the recommendations by the NGT-appointed committee, the National Green Tribunal has directed Oil India Limited (OIL) to disburse compensation ranging from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh to those affected by the OIL well blowout in Assam’s Tinsukia district in May this year.

The committee had classified victims into three categories – whose houses have been completely gutted by the fire; whose houses have been severely damaged and whose houses have been moderately/partially damaged or whose standing crops and horticulture have been partially damaged – in its interim report.

The development came days after the NGT-appointed committee had submitted its “interim report” to the NGT on July 24, and after the hearing on July 29 was deferred and posted for August 6 on the request of learned counsel for the OIL to enable file its submission with reference to the report.

Inmates sleeping at a relief camp

In the order, the bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said, we are unable to accept the objections of OIL at this stage for prima facie view and interim compensation. “The recommendations of the Committee on the subject of compensation for three categories of victims are accepted with the clarification that the compensation already paid will be taken into account and excluded from the interim compensation recommended by the Committee.”

The OIL had objected on additional compensation to persons covered by category (i) as “not” justified stating that they have already paid a compensation to Rs 20 lakhs per family to those covered under this category.

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Affected villagers protesting to press for fulfilment of their demands including compensation

Objection by OIL

Refer to the objections filed by the OIL to the report of the Committee, Justice Goel said, it is submitted that the observations of the Committee are based on review of secondary data which needs to be further verified.

“No site visit was undertaken. Statements of Sri Niranta Gohain, a so-called environmentalist are not credible. Report of the Wildlife Institute of India (WWI) is based on post blowout incident.”

With regard to harm to the individuals, it is stated that 9000 persons have been accommodated in 12 relief camps and arrangement has been made for the food and other needs. On situations improving, stabilized people are leaving the camps. “As on 22.07.2020, approximately 5758 number of occupants are camped in 7 relief camps. Expenditure incurred by the OIL is said to be Rs 151 crores which includes Rs 22.38 crores towards rehabilitation and compensation to the affected families including Rs 9 crores one-time compensation took to the 3000 families in relief camps; Rs 2.20 crores paid to 11 families whose houses were burnt @ Rs 20 lakhs per family; and Rs 11.17 crores for running relief camps upto 23.07.2020,” it read.

“The OIL follows all safeguards and SoPs and has employed experienced contractual. But the said contractor violated the laid down procedures,” the portion of objections by OIL incorporated in the order said and added “the Consent to Establish (CTE) and Consent to Operate (CTO) were taken by composite application as per practice being followed. EC was not required at the time operations of OIL commenced as the project value was less than Rs. 50 crores.”

It read, contribution of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) is from tea gardens, forest land and insecticides/pesticides. With regard to environmental impact, it is stated that damage is on account of agricultural activities or other reasons in the area. ”

Next hearing & final report

Justice Goel said, other interim recommendations may be complied to the extent there is no dispute, subject to call being taken by concerned statutory authorities and finally by this Tribunal on the next date. “The committee may email the “final report” before the next date of hearing scheduled on November 3,” directed Justice Goel.

Survey and compensation

According to OIL press release, survey for assessment of damage for compensation in both Doomdooma and Tinsukia Circle is in progress. “Total number of families surveyed till August 6 both combined in Doomdooma and Tinsukia Circle is 2736.”

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