National Green Tribunal slaps Rs. 25 crore fine on Oil India Limited for gas well blowout

The blowout and subsequent fire have severely damaged the ecology and rendered around 9,000 people to take shelter in relief camps


The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed an interim penalty of Rs. 25 crore on Oil India Limited (OIL) due to its failure in stopping the fire in Assam’s Baghjan 5 gas well that has adversely impacted the people and ecology in the area, Live Law reported.

In an order passed in two original applications – one moved by environmentalist Bonani Kakkar and the other by Assam-based NGO Wild Life & Environmental Conservation Organisation, a bench comprising Justices SP Wangdi and Siddhanta Das directed, “In view of the prima facie case made out against OIL on the extent of damage caused to the environment and biodiversity, damage to both human and wildlife, public health and, having regard to the financial worth of the Company and the extent of damage, we direct the OIL to deposit an initial amount of Rs 25 Crores with the District Magistrate, Tinsukia District, Assam and shall abide by further orders of the Tribunal.”

The applicants invoked the precautionary principle and the Polluters Pay Principle under Sections 20 of the NG Act, 2010 as well as the “Public Trust” doctrine, the order stated.

Apart from this, the bench constituted an eight-member committee to look into the matter and submit its preliminary report within 30 days. It has asked the committee to look at the cause of gas and oil leak, extent of loss and damage caused to human life, wildlife and environment, whether any contamination has been caused to the water, air and soil of the area, contamination of the water of the Dibru river, impact on the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri-Motapung Wetland and assessment of compensation for the victims and cost of restitution among other aspects.

The complete order by NGT may be read below.

Last week, the Pollution Control Board, Assam issued a closure notice to OIL asking it to stop its production and drilling operations at the Baghjan oilfield, alleging that it hadn’t taken prior consent to operate. However, the notice was subsequently withdrawn in pursuance of the affidavit submitted by OIL under some conditions.

The BGN 5 oil well at the Baghjan oilfield in Assam saw a massive blowout on May 27 and on June 9, the well caught fire, increasingly compromising the safety of the people and flora and fauna in the vicinity. It was reported that OIL had subverted laws and extended its drilling and testing to seven new locations at the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, bypassing the rule for public hearings to be undertaken for operations inside protected forests. It had instead asked the environment ministry to take into account the hearings that had taken place on July 8 and August 26, 2011, The Wire had reported.

In an exclusive for Sabrang India, Dr. Hiren Gohain through his article, The Price of Profit, OIL’s misadventure threatens Tinsukhia’s reserve forests & wild life sanctuaries highlighted the Government of India’s sinister ploy to use the lockdown for granting environmental clearances to OIL’s drilling in Assam which endangered human and natural life. The very next day, Sabrang India had also reported of Pradip Saikia, a retired scientist, telling TV Channel Asomiya Pratidin about how political executives ignored the red flags raised in the matter.

Meanwhile, OIL in its daily update on Twitter has said that it has suspended the day’s operations due to heavy floods in the state. It said that floodwater has entered the debris area and has inundated a large area. The Kill pump area is flooded too and the OIL CMT Water Pump area is submerged with flood water. The bioremediation and environment impact studies too have been put on hold due to the floods in the state.


The company also denied claims of oil flowing into water bodies from the gas well saying that the claims were false as all hydrocarbon coming out of the well is completely burnt at the well head.


Assam Pollution Control Board withdraws closure notice served to Oil India Limited
Pollution Control Board Assam issues closure notice to Oil India Limited over Baghjan fire
Baghjan oil well continues to spew fire; affected families yet to receive compensation
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



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