Assam oil well blowout: OIL slaps notice on Gujarat firm amid fears of environmental impact

Wildlife activists and environmentalists are worried considering the threat the blowout posed to flora and fauna. The Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, known for its feral horses, is about 2 km away.

Published: 01st June 2020 08:30 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st June 2020 08:35 PM   |  A+A-

OIL CMD Sushil Chandra Mishra visiting the blowout site

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: There is no letup in the ‘blowout’ – or uncontrolled emission of natural gas – from an oil well of Oil India Limited (OIL) in Assam’s Tinsukia district even as the oil major is awaiting the findings on the impact on biodiversity in the area.

OIL Chairman and Managing Director Sushil Chandra Mishra told journalists on Monday that the public sector undertaking had already served a showcause notice on M/s John Energy Pvt Limited, a Gujarat-based company to which operations were outsourced by the OIL.

He said actions would be initiated against employees of the OIL if there was any prima facie evidence of human error. A five-member committee is probing the incident.

Wildlife activists and environmentalists are worried considering the threat the blowout posed to flora and fauna. The Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, known for its feral horses, is about 2 km away. The activists claimed the incident had already affected aquatic animals, including highly-endangered Gangetic dolphins, and fish at the river Dibru.

Mishra said the OIL was equally concerned about the reported impact on biodiversity. He said the PSU was taking all possible measures to ensure the safety of people living near the site of blowout.

“The OIL is awaiting the observations and findings of district administration, Forest Department and Pollution Control Board so that all necessary steps can be taken. The OIL’s Safety and Environment Department is continuously monitoring the ground situation. An expert agency will be engaged for monitoring the environmental impact,” the OIL CMD said, adding “The OIL is not carrying out any operations within eco sensitive zone (ESZ).”

The OIL is in touch with three US-based expert groups to cap the well. The blowout at Baghjan BGR Oil Well No 5 had started on Wednesday morning.

Sources from the OIL said members of the Crisis Management Team had approached the well head taking all precautionary measures and opened the casing valve. They said water was being pumped continuously through the valve into the well head.

“An additional plot of land adjacent to the well has been arranged to create a big reservoir of water and place the well control equipment. The OIL's fire service has been stationed at the site since May 27 for continuous water jacketing to avert any eventuality. The quality of gas and air is being monitored at constant intervals,” the sources said.

Around 2,500 people from 650 families were evacuated from the affected areas and sheltered at three relief camps.

An incident like this is rare. During a similar blowout back in 2005 at Dikom in Dibrugarh district, experts had to be flown in from abroad to control a blaze at an abandoned oil well. The situation was brought under control 45 days later.

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