The National Green Tribunal on Thursday imposed a heavy fine of Rs 25 crore on Oil India Ltd for causing damage to the environment, humans and wildlife, over its failure to stop the fire at its oil well in Assam’s Baghjan.
The enormous volume of inflammable natural gas which was releasing from the Baghjan-5 oil well since May 27 caught fire on June 9, thus claiming the lives of two fire-fighters.
Baghjan is one of the 23 oil wells set up by OIL to tap the large gas reserves in the Brahmaputra basin and located near the Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
A bench comprising Justice S.P. Wangdi and expert member Siddhanta Das pulled up the company and said: “We direct the OIL to deposit an initial amount of Rs 25 Crores with the District Magistrate, Tinsukia District, Assam and abide by further orders of the Tribunal.”
The tribunal also constituted an eight-member committee headed by former high court judge B.P. Katakey to look into the matter and submit a report in 30 days.
The committee has been asked to probe the cause of the gas and oil leak, the extent of loss and damage caused to human life, wildlife, environment, damage and health hazards caused to the public and whether any contamination has been caused to water, air and soil of the area of the oil well and its vicinity.
The blow-out left behind a mixture of chemical compounds that are toxic for land and vegetation. It is not only hazardous to the health of the people but also severely affects their livelihood, mainly agriculture, fishing, and animal rearing.
The plea filed by activist Bonani Kakkar pointed fingers at the failure of the OIL authorities in preventing the blowout, resulting in a massive fire causing irreparable loss to the entire biodiversity of the region and loss of lives and property.
“Due to the negligence and lack of concrete effort to control the spread of the oil and gas leak, an enormous fire broke out in the area which continues to rage causing displacement of more than 1600 families,” Kakkar said.
The matter will now come up for further consideration on July 29, the NGT said.