Individuals and members of Civil Society Organizations recently expressed their concern over the oil spill at Baghjan Village at Tinsukia District in Assam and other ongoing extractive projects in the entire Northeast region, that has caused “adverse and irreparable environment and social impacts”.
In a statement endorsed by the individuals and organizations of Assam and Northeast demanded immediate attention to the Baghjan incident and other extractive projects implemented or planned to be implemented across India’s North East.
On 27th of May, around 10.30 AM, a major blowout, or an uncontrolled release of natural gas was reported at the Baghjan Oilfield of Oil India Limited (OIL) in Tinsukia district of Assam. The oil well exploded in a fountain of crude oil after the reported failure of the pressure control systems. The oil spill has continued since then and technicians failed to control it as of June 3, 2020.
Baghjan Oilfield is located right next to the Maguri-Motapung wetland, part of the eco-sensitive zone of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, known especially for its migratory birds and feral horses. The villagers of this area depend on the Wetland and the Dangori and Dibru Rivers in the Baghjan area as sources of livelihood.
As mentioned in the statement, the oil spill as seen after 6 days already unleashed an adverse effect on biodiversity of this area. Dense particles or condensates from the blow-out have turned the local atmosphere misty; rain-like droplets falling on the vegetation have formed a sticky oily layer. The bright sun and the subsequent day of rainfall withered the leaves on standing trees which soon will be bare. Condensates settling on the skins of livestock have led to deep wounds. It is highly unlikely that the affected animals would survive.
Stressing on the unique site that forms the natural habitat and breeding ground of highly endangered species including river dolphin, birds and fishes that has nurtured a promising industry of eco-tourism and environmental learning with its rich diversity, is now under threat due to the blowout, mentioned the statement.
The statement further read, “In the wake of the blowout several endangered birds and fish varieties and a dead carcass of a Gangetic Dolphin was found by locals of the area. This indicates that there might be many such carcasses floating in inaccessible parts of the location. Since a decade and a half, the oil exploration by Oil India Limited (OIL) and other oil companies has been going on in this highly sensitive zone. To tap the oil and gas resources, OIL even came up with an Extended Reach Drill technology, to intersect hydrocarbon targets far from the existing drilling well plinth. Using this technology oil exploration can be done without entering a protected area like the Dibru Saikhowa National Park, but oil extraction cannot happen without destroying the surrounding areas.”
It claimed that the OIL has failed to comply with the Environment Clearance report issued by the MoEFCC, even though it is aware of the conditions to be adhered under the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) act 1974; Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981; Environment (Protection) Act 1986; Hazardous Waste Management Rules 2016; Public Liability Insurance Act 1991; and many orders passed by the Supreme Court, High Court of Assam and any other Court of Law relating to the subject matter.
Although OIL was required to take adequate measures to avoid accidents during drilling. The May 27 blow incident testifies the failure of the precautionary measures. The OIL company unleashed human rights violations by contaminating the land and water bodies and by denying the livelihood of communities depending on rivers and wetlands. The company denies safety to its own workers and to the resident and was responsible for the loss of acclaimed mammal the Gangetic Dolphin and killed several endemic aquatic species. The destruction is continuing, read the statement.
Therefore, drawing the attention towards the Baghjan incident as well to other extractive projects implemented or planned to be implemented across India’s North East some of the major points highlighted by the individuals and organizations in the statement are as follows:
- Regarding the oil spill in Baghjan area, we demand urgent and immediate rehabilitation and compensation of the villagers
- Immediate clean-up of the village areas, water bodies and air contaminated by the Oil spill.
- Overall, companies exploring and exploiting natural resources in the region, should be held accountable for social impacts and irreparable loss of biodiversity of the region caused by their explorations. Especially, extraction of oil and other resources and drilling/extraction in eco sensitive and fragile biodiversity zones in the entire region of the North East should be put on halt.
The following individuals and organizations endorsed the statement- Linda Chhakchhuak, Journalist, Meghalaya; Jiten Yumnam, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur; Ravindranath, River Basin Friends, Assam; Alana Golmei, Humanitarian and Lawyer; Kaustubh Deka, Dibrugarh University; Belinder Dhanoa, Ambedkar University; Bano Haralu, Journalist, Conservationist, Nagaland; Chandan Kumar Sharma, Tezpur University; KK Chatradhara, Assam; Arup Jyoti Das, Senior Journalist, Northeast; Nirantar Gohain, Wave Eco-Tourism; Ranjan Panda, Combat Climate Change Network, India; Gunrei Kamei, Environmentalist, Manipur; Ms. Christina Lamremdik, Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur; Swapan Ashangbam, Farmer, Assam; Bimal Gogoi, Assam; Bubul Hazarika, Journalist; Dipen Lahkar, Kakopather; Youth’s Forum for Protection of Human Rights; Youth’s Action Committee for Protection of Indigenous Peoples; Luit Goswami, Director, RVC; Nuchiso Lawrence Sakha; Dr. Ranjita Bania, Jeeva Suraksha, Assam; Anthony Debbarma, Secretary General, Borok Peoples’ Human Rights Organisation, Tripura; Sanat K Chakraborty, Journalist, Shillong; N Janbemo Humtsoe, Green Foundation, Nagaland; Soneswar Narah, Social Activist; Pranab Doley, Human Right Activist, Assam; Hema Phukan, President, JEEPAL, Assam; Prabin Pegu, Secretary, JEEPAL; Bhaben Handique, Convenor, Swaraj Asom; K. J Joy, forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflict in India, Pune; Let India Breathe; Tirtha Prasad Saikia, Jorhat; Champak Hazarika, General Secretary, Natun Rangagara Anchalik Yuba Sangha; Jadab Hati Baruah, GS, Milanpur Gaon Uday Sangha; Birendra Kumar Chutia, President, Green Vision Northeast; Astik Chutia, GS, Purani Motapung Karmabir Sangha; Satyajit Borgohain, General Secretary, Tinisukia Anchalik Chatra Santha; Mahesh Hatibaruah, Notun Rangagara; Rubul Gogoi, Natun Gaon; Deba Kanta Gogoi, Milanpur; Huralidhar Gupta, President, Gattong Gaon Panchayat; Chitralekha Duarah, Chairman, Guijan Anchalik Panchayat; Mintu Kumar Dutta, Ward Member, Gottang GP; Bijay Sonowal, Member, Gottong GP