DIBRUGARH: For the replacement of old pipelines, Oil India Limited (OIL) is now reportedly setting up pipelines in the “eco-sensitive zone” of Dehing Patkai National Park which is now being protested by various environmental groups concerned over the issue.

In 1954, the pipelines were already been set up in the Digboi-Duliajan road and to replace the old pipelines such a project was taken.

On the other hand, environmental groups and Student organisations raised their voice against the activity. 

The groups alleged that mass destruction of the forest has been going on at the Upper Dehing west block, where Oil has been setting up Oil pipelines. The entire area comes under the Digboi forest division.

Dehing-Patkai has been upgraded as a National park but still, destruction of the forest has been going on unabated, they alleged.

Many valuable trees have been chopped off for setting up of Oil pipelines. The contractors who were allotted the work for setting up the gas pipelines from Balijan to Kathalguri, Tinsukia had already slashed many trees in the eco-sensitive area of Dehing-Patkai National Park.

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On December 2, 2022, environmental groups and the All Adivasi Students’ Association staged a protest against the setting up of Oil pipelines in Dehing-Patkai National Park.

The environmental groups raised concerns about the destruction of forests in Dehing-Patkai National Park. 

“It is an eco-sensitive zone, then why permission has been given for slashing down of trees in that area? It’s a protected area for elephants and if such destruction has been going on then the habitat loss of elephants has been certain. We urged the intervention of NGT to stop such destruction,” said Devojit Moran, an environmental activist.

Moran added, “If they set up the pipelines from Lakhipathar to Lankashi and take it to Madhuban then no trees will be cut. But instead of that, they have done the project inside the reserve forest which comes under Dehing Patkai National Park which is not required.”

Digboi Forest Division, DFO Ranjit Ram said, “We have not cut any major trees in the area. No canopy has been touched in that area. Oil has been replacing the old pipelines, and for that, they are setting up pipelines from Balijan to Kathalguri. If the replacement is not done then major sabotage can take place which is more harmful to Dehing-Patkai National Park.”

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“There are a total of 850 trees in the area. But rumours are being circulated that 850 trees had been chopped off for setting up pipelines which is false. We have not touched any major trees. The Ministry of Forest had already permitted the setting up of the pipelines. The whole work for replacement of oil pipelines has been going on at reserve park, not in Dehing-Patkai National Park,” Ranjit Ram said.

“If the trees are chopped into the area then the human-elephnat conflict will rise in Nahajan, Saripung, Lakhipathar, Balijan and Borjan areas. The elephant movement will be affected and then they will start moving towards human habitation. How the forest department has got permission of slashing big trees in the eco-sensitive zone of the upper Dehing reserve forest?” Bijay Gogoi, another environmentalist said. 

OIL spokesperson Bhairab Bhuyan said, “Oil India Limited is delivering crude oil to the Digboi refinery through Duliajan Digboi crude oil pipeline (8″) for the last six decades. As the pipeline is getting old and to meet the latest provisions of OISD-141 for Cross Country Pipelines, a project is taken to replace the existing pipeline with a new one to ensure crude oil transportation safely and reliably,”

He added, “A portion of this pipeline falls in the Upper Dehing Reserve Forest. Another gas pipeline (18″) of Dirok JV, (which is a JV of OIL, HOEC and IOCL) and which is essential for the energy security of downstream gas-based industries of the region like BCPL etc is also being constructed. A portion of this pipeline is also falling within Upper Dehing Reserve Forest. To minimise environmental damage in the forest portion, both pipelines are planned to be laid in the same corridor for a portion (about 13 km) that is going parallelly in the Upper Dehing Reserve.”

“The pipeline corridor in the forest portion is beside the Duliajan – Digboi road such that works can be executed with minimum tree felling. As against normal 18-meter width ROW for Pipelines, here in the forest portion, the ROW width is much less,” he said.

He further added, “An area twice the area of diverted forest land will be put into Compensatory Afforestation. It is urged to all stakeholders that the construction of the pipelines is of utmost necessity for the sustainable operation of the Digboi refinery as well as for various gas-based downstream industries. Oil India Limited is trying to execute the project with minimum environmental impact.”

Avik Chakraborty

Avik Chakraborty is Northeast Now Correspondent in Dibrugarh. He can be reached at: babs8oct@gmail.com