Assam well fire: Oil India objects to committee’s report in NGT

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Photo: PTI

Oil India Ltd has objected before the National Green Tribunal to a preliminary report filed by a committee of experts on the fire incident in Assam’s Baghjan oil well saying it is based on desk research and review of secondary data. The observations and findings of the Committee are based on unverifiable data, with respect, may not be taken into consideration for passing any order, the state-owned firm told the NGT.

“The said Committee’s Report is primarily based on information provided by various organisations, local people and published reports and not based on own scientific or laboratory data. Such unverified data, with respect, should not form the basis of any conclusion on the environmental impact in the area,” the PSU said. The Committee of Experts has not made a site-visit till the filing of the Preliminary Report, it said.

“It is stated and submitted that the observations and findings of the Committee of Experts are based on Desk Research and review of secondary data made available through Reports and documents received from various stakeholders,” Oil India said.

The NGT on June 24 had constituted a committee headed by former high court judge B P Katakey to look into the matter and submit a report. The committee had reported major lapses including lack of planning, execution and supervision of critical operations.

The committee in its preliminary report opined that the blowout and subsequent explosion “has led to extensive damage to both the publicly-owned resources”, including the Maguri-Motapung wetland and Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

“There was a clear mismatch between planning and its execution at site and deviations from the standard operating procedure. There were serious deficiencies, of proper levels of supervision of critical operation at the well site, both from the contractor as well as from OIL,” the committee said in its report. Oil India said that the committee has heavily relied upon statements of an environmentalist which are not based on any credible evidences.

It said the committee has also relied upon extensively on the Report of Wildlife Institute of India (WWI) to arrive at its observations and findings. The PSU said the analytical data, based on which WWI has prepared its report and arrived at its findings, were taken post blow out incident on May 27.

“WWI has arrived to the conclusion that there is high concentration of various elements in the water and soil. WWI has arrived to the conclusion that such concentration of elements is on account of release of natural gas and condensate in the atmosphere after the blow out.

“However, no comparative data of the area is available to arrive into such conclusion,” it said. Well number 5 at Baghjan in Tinsukia district, had been spewing gas uncontrollably and it caught fire on June 9, killing two of OIL’s fire fighters at the site.

The committee also comprises Member Secretary of Central Pollution Control Board; senior expert from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research; Sarbeswar Kalita of Guwahati University; former forest Biodiversity Board member Abhay Kumar Johari; Ajit Hazarika and ex-chairman Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited. The order came on a plea filed by activist Bonani Kakkar and others alleging failure of the authorities in preventing the blowout of Baghjan oil well.

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