The National Green Tribunal has ordered the Oil India Limited (OIL) to deposit an initial amount of Rs. 25 crores with the District Magistrate, Tinsukia District, Assam regarding the Assam oil well fire.
The Tribunal passed the order in two different applications, the environmentalist Bonani Kakkar and Assam based NGO Wild Life & Environment Conservation Organisation filed. The Bench took up both the cases together as both raised identical questions.
An oil well in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district blowed up on the morning of May 27. The well was under Oil India Limited’s Baghjan oilfield. The Baghjan oilfield connects to the Maguri-Motapung wetland and is near to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. The blowout was caused due to Machinery failure and it led to an uncontrolled release of crude oil or gas from the production well.
The gas was flowing out uncontrollably in spite of pumping in water. The authorities evacuated 1610 families from the affected areas and relocated them to four relief camps. Also, OIL awarded an immediate compensation of Rs. 30,000 to each family. Disaster control experts from Singapore were also called to control the situation. However, the well caught fire on June 9. Above all, two firemen lost their lives as they jumped into a pond to avoid the flames.
Concern For Environment
This incident has caused a great concern among the locals and environmentalists about the damaging impact. Also, there have been reports of damage to the ecology of the area. Pictures of remains of a river dolphin and some dead fishes in Maguri Motapung Beel, about 1.5 km from the incident site, went viral on social media. Moreover, the toxins that entered into the soil will have long term effect on the current as well as future life conditions.
Further, the applicants allege that this has caused an “irreparable damage” to the community and the biodiversity of the area. They demand the authorities to hold the respondents as accountable under Precautionary Principle and the Polluters Pay Principle under Section 20 of the National Green Tribunal Act and the Public Trust Doctrine.
The Tribunal’s Order
Therefore, the court has constituted an eight-member committee to inspect the incident. The committee has to submit its preliminary report to the Registry within 30 days. The Committee will investigate on the following aspects: –
- Cause of gas and oil leak;
- Extent of loss and damage and health hazard caused to human life, wildlife, environment;
- Check any contamination in the nearby areas;
- Extent of contamination of water of the Dibru river;
- Monitor air quality and also test soil samples and ground water of the areas;
- Impact on the eco sensitive zone of the Dibru Saikhowa National Park and Maguri-Motapung Wetland;
- Impact on agriculture, Fishery and domestic animals in the area;
- Whether OIL put any mitigation measure in place for protection from such incidents;
- Persons responsible for the fire incidents and the cause of failure to prevent the incident;
- Assessment of compensation for the victims and cost of restitution of the damage caused to property and the environment;
- Preventive and remedial measures: and other incidental or allied issues
The next hearing of this matter is on July 29, 2020.