Assam gas field must have broken the green guidelines

No wildlife clearance was taken for wells in the region, including well number 5, which is located barely a kilometre from Dibru Sikova National Park.

Gas well number 5 of Oil India Limited (OIL) in Bagajan, Tinsukia, Assam, where an explosion occurred on 27 May triggering a continuous oil and gas leak near Maguri Motapung Wetland and Dibru Sekoya Biosphere Reserve, its wildlife and bio Was not rated for diversity. According to the documents of the Union Ministry of Environment, the effect.

No wildlife clearance was taken for wells in the region, including well number 5, which is located barely a kilometre from Dibru Sikova National Park.

The wildlife and biodiversity impact of wells had not been studied for nearly a decade as the Ministry gave them environmental clearance. OIL was issued two environmental clearances in 2011 after the 2003 Plantation Petroleum Mining was leased. Related to the drilling of six exploratory wells in the Machki region of Tinsukia. The second evacuation allowed drilling of 41 developmental and exploratory wells in northern Hapajan, Tinsukia and Dhola.

The first environmental clearance letter was issued by HT on 2 November 2011 on the condition that no well other than six would be drilled. The other letter issued on 1 November 2011 was for 41 wells located outside the 10 km radius of any national park, wildlife sanctuary or eco-sensitive area. The letters also set out conditions such as the installation of a blowout preventer and an oil spill and mitigation plan.

“The first 5 to 6 wells were drilled in 2003–2004, when the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 was also not in force. "We started applying for some permissions after drafting the rules and providing EC [environmental clearance] in 2011," said OIL spokesperson Tridiv Hazarika.

Bajan is located at the confluence of the Siang, Dibang and Lohit rivers and is one of the few remaining settlements for many endangered and range-restricted species.

The explosion caused the uncontrollable flow of oil from gas well No. 5 and caused extensive damage to biodiversity and wildlife in the region, including endangered Hoolock gibbons and Gangetic dolphins.

The Bagwan oil field has 17 oil and five gas wells. The area is located just 500 meters from the Maguri-Motapung wetland, which is a part of the eco-sensitive area of   Dibru Sikova National Park.

In a December 2006 ruling, the Supreme Court stated that all development or mining projects within a 10 km radius of a national park would require the approval and evaluation of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL).

This decision was ignored in the case of Bagwan wells, until the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) was declared for Dibru Sikova National Park, except for the wells. The ESZ was notified in January and extends 8.7 km from the park.

The Environment Ministry, in response to HT's questions, said why the impact of wildlife was not considered, "the gas wells in Bagwan block are located outside the notified ESZ of Dairy Saikhowa National Park."

Wildlife activist Mridupaban Phukan told that environmentalists are urging that the environmental and wildlife approvals are provided to OIL and GAS wells in Bagwan are spotted in the city property. “We had also written about this to the Assam Pollution Control Board but received no response. We doubt whether all the wells have EC [environmental clearance]. How can the government allow such projects in an ecologically sensitive area without adequate scrutiny? Phuket asked.

“The region is very seismically active. I wonder if the seismicity of the area was assessed. It is very close to the river and a national park. Any industrial activity of this scale will have an impact on both the river and the forests. The landscape is a unique landscape of lowland forests. It is possibly one of its kind left in India. So all precautionary steps should be taken, ”said Qamar Qureshi, senior scientist at Wildlife Institute of India, adding that his team is studying the impact of oil spills and gas on the ecology of the region.

OIL insisted that it carried out a disaster management plan immediately after the explosion. “For scouts like this, getting the local population to a safe place is the first priority. Water jacketing of gas emanating from the fire tenders is also a priority ... The BOP [blowout promoter] is a standard safety device used in all our campaigns, ”OT said in response to HT questions.

Experts said the cumulative impact of drilling in an ecologically fragile area was never assessed as OIL sought approval in a piece-by-piece manner.

“The regulatory trajectory of OIL's operations leaves many questions unanswered. The need for comprehensive wildlife approval in 2011, exemption from public hearings, construction of a pipeline without all approvals, compliance with environmental safeguards will be required to investigate all causes that cause inaccessible ecological and human impacts due to leaks and fires We do,” said Kanchi Kohli, a legitimate investigator.

Kohli said that in fact, the discovery, extraction and transportation of gas have been dealt with in a crumbling manner and allowed it to inch closer and closer to the national park.

OIL applied for NBWL clearance in 2012. For transfer of 114.267 hectares of non-forest land within 10 km radius of National Park for 304.15 hectares for laying crude oil pipeline under Wetland and development of the gas field.

NBWL deputed its members Prerna Singh Bindra and MD Madhusudan for a site inspection after residents and non-governmental organizations alleged OIL violations. Their report states that OIL started construction of the pipeline even before it was approved by NIWL.

The report recommends that OIL provide a legal undertaking regarding its environmental safeguards and specify the nature and extent of its liability in case of accidents from oil spills or gas leaks in wetlands.

In meetings held on December 30, 31, 2019 and January 1, 2020, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment recommended environmental clearance for drilling and testing of hydrocarbons at seven locations inside and below the national park.

As per the minutes of the EAC meetings observed by HAC, OIL had sought exemption from public hearings several times. The EAC agreed to exempt the project from public hearings but the Ministry of Environment did not accept it.

The EAC wrote to OIL about the resumption of the motion after holding a fresh public hearing on May 29, 2019. A public hearing is mandatory for a project of this nature.

But according to the minutes, OIL again requested an exemption from the public hearing, it was held in 2016 in Tinsukia. OIL said there was widespread local opposition to drilling inside the park.

“It was reported that organizing a public hearing in the area is a major challenge and cannot be met many times due to uncontrolled acts by local pressure groups. Production has been halted due to vulnerability and blockade from local pressure groups in these areas, ”according to minutes by HT.

The EAC approved the project, considering the "national importance" for energy security. The minutes state that each drop of oil production will contribute significantly to meeting the vision to reduce oil imports by 10% by 2022.

Drilling of seven wells was expected to contribute 700,000 litres of oil daily and save about Rs 450 crore annually on crude oil imports.

An April 2014 Supreme Court ruling prohibited any mining within the kilometre range of the protected area.

OIL filed a petition in 2015 stating that it has been exempted from the order of the Supreme Court as it relates to the mining of minerals and not for drilling of oil wells.

OIL managed to get both court and NBWL approval on August 9, 2017.

Manju Menon, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research, who is overseeing the case, cited available papers and said OIL appears to have dodged public hearing procedures for its expansion. “If a project that has been going on for years, there cannot be a public hearing, how do the regulatory bodies that approve such a project expect it to operate successfully among local communities? This expectation is completely wrong when all they have done is to create a situation of conflict. "

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