The National Green Tribunal has rejected the Oil India Limited’s objections (OIL) to the preliminary report of an expert committee on the blowout and explosion of a gas well owned by the energy giant in Assam’s Baghjan.
The Centre-owned enterprise had asked the Tribunal to not consider the committee’s findings, saying it was based on secondary and unverifiable data.
The expert committee, headed by former Gauhati High Court Judge Justice B P Katakey, was set up by the NGT on June 24.
In an order on Thursday, an NGT bench headed by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said, “We have given due consideration to the objections. We are unable to accept the same at this stage for prima facie view and interim compensation.”
The bench accepted the interim compensation recommended by the committee, for which three categories have been created — Rs 25 lakh for families whose houses were completely destroyed, Rs 10 lakh for houses severely damaged and Rs 2.5 lakh for moderately damaged houses.
In its objections, the OIL stated that it has already paid Rs 20 lakh to 11 families whose houses have been completely destroyed, and the additional amount recommended is not justified.
The Tribunal did not accept this submission, but directed that the amount already paid by OIL be taken into account and excluded.
“Compensation to victims of (other two) categories will be subject to identification by the District Administration which may be completed preferably within one month,” the bench said.
The blowout occured on May 27 at Baghjan oilfield’s well number 5, which later exploded and caught fire on June 9. Operations to control the fire and cap the well are said to be in their final stages at present.
The site is close to Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri-Motapung wetland in Assam’s Tinsukia district. The incident had displaced 9,000 people from their homes into 12 relief camps and caused “extensive damage” to wildlife and natural resources in the area.
In the preliminary report, the expert committee had recommended “scrutiny of all existing projects of OIL in Assam” in view of “serious and grave infraction against the statutory environmental safeguards”.
It had stated that OIL did not have, till date, the required consent to establish or operate, to either carry out drilling and testing of hydrocarbons at well number 5. It also blamed “deficiency” in understanding, planning and “proper supervision of critical operation at the well site, from both the contractor as well as from OIL” for the blowout.
In the objections filed in an affidavit on August 5, the OIL blamed contractor John Energy Limited for the blowout, saying it “grossly violated” the laid-down procedures during repair operations at the well which led to the incident. “The findings of the committee that OIL does not have consent to establish/consent to operate (CTE/CTO) for Baghjan well-5 till date is not correct, in view of the fact that the well became part of the production installation since 2007-08, against which Pollution Control Board, Assam, granted CTE/CTO in subsequent years,” it stated.
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