GUWAHATI: The Centre on Sunday said the people affected by the blowout – or uncontrolled emission of natural gas – and resultant fire at an oil well of the Oil India Limited (OIL) at Baghjan area of Assam’s Tinsukia district would be adequately compensated.
The announcement was made by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan during his visit to the site along with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Sunday.
“It was a very unfortunate incident. Together with the Assam government, the Government of India will solve the problem as early as possible. We want that your lives are protected. We will assess the damage and compensate the affected families adequately,” Pradhan told the locals at the site.
The demands of the locals included payment of Rs 1 crore as compensation to each affected family. Over 7,000 people from around 1,500 families have been affected by the incident. They are now lodged in various relief camps.
The Union Minister said after the receipt of the report of probe being conducted by a three-member high-level Central committee, action would be taken against the guilty, no matter how big he could be.
During their visit, Pradhan and Sonowal also assessed the damage and took stock of the control measures being carried out by foreign experts and specialists from the OIL and other agencies and the progress made so far.
Sonowal said the state government was taking the matter very seriously and as such, asked an Additional Chief Secretary to conduct a probe and an Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) to carry out a study on the adverse impact of gas well explosion on ecology and environment of the area.
He said the Centre and the state government were constantly monitoring the situation. He announced that in order to bring permanent solution to the problems of floods and erosion in the area, the state government had earmarked Rs 27 crore which would be released soon.
Apparently, to keep the locals in a good humuor, Sonowal also announced that the government would establish a model hospital, a veterinary hospital, a model higher secondary school in the area, develop a road linking the area with nearby trade hub Tinsukia, convert the Maguri-Motapung Beel (or billabong) into an international tourist destination, provide financial assistance to women self-help groups and set up a skill development centre in the area.
The fire at the oil well is still raging. The blowout occurred on May 27 resulting in non-stop spewing of natural gas. The fire broke out on June 9 as natural gas was being fed by the well’s oil. Two firefighters of the OIL had also lost their lives in the inferno.
The incident has left a trail of devastation in areas surrounding the well. A number of houses were reduced to ashes. Environmentalists and wildlife activists fear that the incident severely damaged flora and fauna of the area. The ecologically-fragile Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, known for its feral horses, is less than two km away.
An incident like this is rare. During a similar blowout in 2005 at Dikom in Dibrugarh district, experts had to be flown in from abroad to control a blaze at an abandoned oil well 45 days later.