Baghjan oil well continues to spew fire; affected families yet to receive compensation

While the fire at the periphery has been doused, the fire at the mouth of the well continues to damage the environment


Even eight days after the Baghjan oil well was engulfed in flames on June 9 after a massive blowout on May 27, experts at Alert Disaster Control who were called in from Singapore, are still trying to douse the fire, Sentinel Assam reported. Oil India Limited (OIL) which runs the oil well has also sought the help of the Army to carry out the construction of a Bailey bridge over the natural pond near the well site. OIL reported that there has been a cumulative production loss of 5,844 MT of crude oil and 7.53 MMSCM of natural gas due to protests and agitations at the site.

According to OIL’s official statement, it is continuously monitoring the air and water quality, noise levels and presence of gases near the well site. It also said that Environment Assessment Impact (EIA) by ERM India Pvt. Ltd is in progress to carry out the environment and ecological survey within the vicinity of oil well, including the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri-MotapungBeel. It also said that TERI is carrying out bioremediation of sludge in OIL’s installations. After villagers experienced unexplained tremors in the area, OIL has roped in seismologists to come to the site with requisite equipment. The Assam Agricultural University has also conducted a preliminary assessment on the vegetation – plants and tea gardens and has been asked to start post-fire damage assessment to assess the damage to crops / trees / plants (paddy, tea, fruit and vegetation).

Sabrangindia was the first to flag the ongoing crisis following the blowout at OIL on June 10. In an article by Dr HirenGohain on June 10, The Price of Profit, OIL’s misadventure threatens Tinsukhia’s reserve forests & wild life sanctuaries: Assam we had flagged the sinister ploy by the GOI, that, taking unscrupulous advantage of the opacity caused by the Covid 19 lockdown, granted environmental clearance to OIL’s drilling in Assam and thereby severely endangered human and natural life. The author had called for an Independent Inquiry into the entire mishap.

The very next day, on June 11, Sabrangindia had reported a local television channel, Assam’s AsomiyaPratidin interviewing a retired scientist with OIL who spoke of his report against drilling being ignored by the political executive.

On the same day, OIL had reported that the spread of the fire in the village had been contained and no flash fires had been reported from nearby areas. It also said that affected people had been housed in 12 relief camps and with the help of student organizations and the district administration, arrangements for their food, hygiene and lodging were made there. It mentioned that the one-time compensation amount of Rs. 30,000 for 1,610 families amounting to Rs. 4.83 crores had been deposited to the account of the district commissioner to be disbursed to them. It also mentioned the health screening of more than 2,000 people had been carried out at the camp under OIL’s CSR Project Sparsha and more than 9,000 people had been provided with hygiene kits under its Project Arogya. OIL also mentioned that it has handed over cheques of Rs. 30 lakh each to the wives of the fire fighters who lost their lives while trying to contain the flames.

On June 14, The Print reported Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister DharmendraPradhan saying that those in relief camps would be adequately compensated and the Baghjan embankment would be constructed at a cost of Rs. 27 crore. He also said that OIL would clean the Maguri-Motapung wetlands.

A ground report undertaken by News Click shows that while OIL says it’s doing its bit, the reality is quite different from what OIL portrays. Eight days later, the compensation of Rs. 30,000 hasn’t reached the affected persons. Apart from that, the locals feel that the package is too less to get them back on their feet since their livestock and farmlands have suffered due to the oil spillage and Rs. 30,000 won’t be enough to sustain in the long-term. The relief camps are also said to be a social distancing disaster among the fear of the coronavirus, with locals telling News Click that 20 people are cramped in one room and have to use make-shift toilets. 

The citizens of Assam have been protesting against OIL and the government for the situation that has emerged and against the pittance offered to those affected. Many student organizations and social organizations have come forward to help the people in relief camps. All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) Chief MaulanaBadruddinAjmal has also announced a relief package of Rs. 10 lakh each to the affected villagers, in addition to Rs. 50,000 to the families of the two OIL firefighters who passed away doing their duty.

According to media reports, OIL has suspended two of its officials for alleged negligence of duty and issued a show-cause notice to John Energy Pvt Ltd, the outsourced private operator of the gas well. An environmentalist, ApurbaBallavGoswami has also filed an FIR against OIL and John Energy under relevant sections of the IPC and the Disaster Management Act, India Today reported.


Assam: Fourteen days later massive fire breaks out at oil well in Baghjan oilfield
More on Assam’s Ecological Disaster, retd scientist Saikia speaks of Govt ignoring scientific advice against drilling at Tinsukhia
High-level probe into OIL’s Baghjan well tragedy: CM Sonowal



Related Articles