Gauhati HC notice for Centre, Assam over nod to OIL to drill for oil, gas in national park
The Gauhati High Court on Wednesday issued notices to Centre, Assam government, and 12 other agencies over permission granted to Oil India Limited (OIL) to drill for oil and natural gas in Assam’s Dibru Saikhowa National Park, which is close to Baghjan, where an OIL gas well had a blow out in May.
Acting on a public interest litigation filed by advocate Mrinmoy Khataniar and Amar Jyoti Deka, a division bench comprising Chief Justice (acting) NK Singh and Justice Manish Choudhury ordered the 14 respondents including OIL to file their affidavits within two weeks.
The next date for hearing has been fixed as October 20. The bench also considered another PIL filed on the same issue filed by advocate Gautam Uzir.
The petitioners had sought the court’s intervention against Centre’s permission to OIL to drill inside the national park by doing away with public hearing under the draft environment impact assessment (EIA) notification, 2020.
Besides the Centre, Assam government and OIL, other respondents named in the petition include the national board of wildlife, the state board of wildlife and the central and state pollution control boards.
On May 11, the Union forest, environment and climate change ministry had given environmental clearance for extension drilling and testing of hydrocarbons at seven locations by OIL under Dibru-Saikhowa National Park area in Tinsukia district of Assam.
Spread over 340 sq km, Dibru-Saikhowa is one of the five national parks in Assam. The park, which is also a biosphere reserve, is home to 36 mammal species including tiger, Gangetic dolphin, feral horses and 382 bird species.
Concerns about OIL’s drilling plan soon emerged on social media platforms after the company published an advertisement in newspapers recently mentioning the environment ministry’s clearance for the project.
Reacting to the apprehensions, OIL had clarified in May that the company won’t operate inside the national park and the drilling will have no impact on the area as operation would be conducted through extended reach drilling (ERD).
“We will not touch the national park. Drilling will be done from two kilometers away from the park and won’t affect the surface of the park,” OIL CMD Sushil Chandra Mishra told journalists on Tuesday.