File photo: Image shows fire tenders at Baghjan Oil Field after an explosion in Tinsukia, Assam on May 27, 2020.(PTI)
File photo: Image shows fire tenders at Baghjan Oil Field after an explosion in Tinsukia, Assam on May 27, 2020.(PTI)

Baghjan oil field was operating without Assam pollution control board’s nod, says closure order

A preliminary report on the environmental damage caused due to the Oil India Limited’s gas well blowout found oil has leaked into the mainstream of river Lohit polluting the water and adjoining Maguri-Motapung wetland with toxic pollutants.
By Jayashree Nandi | Edited by Sparshita Saxena | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 21, 2020 02:39 PM IST

The Assam Pollution Control Board has issued a closure notice to Baghjan Oil field of Oil India Limited (OIL) on Friday on the grounds that the OIL has been operating Baghjan oil field activities without obtaining prior consent to establish and operate from Assam Pollution Control Board.

The letter states that Baghjan Oil field in Assam’s Tinsukia district is located 500 metres to the Maguri-Motapung wetland which is part of the eco-sensitive zone of Dibru Saikhowa National Park which is severely affected by the OIL’s negligence.

The OIL was required to take adequate measures to prevent spillage of hazardous wastes into water bodies through designated drains and treatment facilities. The environment clearance granted to the OIL was also on the condition that the company installs a blow out prevention system to avoid accidents during drilling. “But you have failed to do it,” the letter stated.

Also read: Centre, Assam working on relief for those affected by gas well fire - PM Modi

“It is observed that you have been operating your production as well as drilling installations without being equipped with proper safety and precautionary measures for which major accidents have occurred at the drilling sites,” the letter added.

The pollution control board has said that the gas well blowout from gas well 5 and subsequent fire shows negligence and carelessness of M/S OIL India Limited. The board, with powers conferred to it under section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, has directed the closure of all installations of OIL in Baghjan oil field.

“We have ordered complete closure because of their negligent behaviour,” said DN Das, member secretary, Assam Pollution Control Board.

Also read: As fire at Assam gas well continues, studies under way to assess impact on environment

“We have applied for consent to operate a number of times and even deposited fee for it with the pollution control board. The consent has come through for certain installations, rest are pending,” said Tridiv Hazarika, spokesperson, the OIL. “

The PCB had mailed us on June 11 asking us for details of various permissions and data. We had asked for time to reply. It’s a 15-year-old oil field. We managed to send them a response on June 18 but got a closure notice on June 19. It’s not technically possible to close the wells immediately as it will affect reservoirs. Many industries are dependent on the OIL for their operations. We are also considering a legal option for a stay on the closure order,” said Hazarika.

There are 17 oil wells and 5 gas wells in the Baghjan oil field. A preliminary report on the environmental damage caused due to the Oil India Limited’s gas well blowout found oil has leaked into the mainstream of river Lohit polluting the water and adjoining Maguri-Motapung wetland with toxic pollutants.

The report by Wildlife Institute of India drafted earlier this month has recommended that the approved new wells and exploration in the area should be put on hold until the OIL has disaster handling capabilities in place.

“The toxic fumes and oil coating has universally affected flora and fauna. The contaminants and oil is continuing to be released in the surrounding areas and immediate steps are needed to contain this spillover. The toxins released are known to have long-term persistence in soils and sediments, which will not only affect current life conditions but, due to sustained release over a long period, pose a serious health risk for a long term,” the report said.

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