National Green Tribunal (NGT) has blamed the Oil India Limited (OIL) for the Baghjan blowout in Assam’s Tinsukia district.

It recommended that Rs 25 lakh be given for houses that were completely destroyed, Rs 10 lakh for those severely damaged, and Rs 2.5 lakh for those moderately damaged.

A preliminary report stated that OIL does not have, till date, the required consent to establish and/or consent to operate to either carry out drilling and testing of hydrocarbons in Well Baghjan-5.

Also read: Assam: Final preparation for capping stack underway in Baghjan

A panel of experts has recommended ‘scrutiny of all existing projects of OIL in Assam’ in view of ‘serious and grave infraction against the statutory environmental safeguards’.

The report blamed ‘deficiency in understanding’ and ‘proper planning of critical operations’ for the blowout.

“There was a clear mismatch between planning and its execution at site and deviations from the standard operating procedure. There were serious deficiencies, of proper levels of supervision of critical operation at the well site, both from the contractor as well as from OIL,” report stated.

Among several instances it referred to, the report said ‘the well gave more than one hour to take some corrective measures but precious time was lost in decision making as no senior officers were at site, only telephonic discussions were going on’.

The report further said that OIL did not have the mandatory prior environmental clearance for the project.

It noted that while OIL started operations in Baghjan Well No 5 in November 2006, the clearance was not sought until November 2007 — it was granted only in 2011.

The committee also noted that the company was yet to conduct a biodiversity impact assessment study as mandated by a Supreme Court order that allowed it to seek clearance for exploring hydrocarbons under Dibru Saikhowa National Park in 2017.

Set up under former Gauhati High Court judge B P Katakey on July 2, the Committee of Experts submitted its preliminary report to the NGT on July 24 which was made public on Wednesday.

According to the report, the panel found ‘conclusive evidence’ of ‘violations and non-compliance by OIL of key environmental safeguards and safety oversight.

The well continues to remain on fire since the explosion on June 9 after the blowout, which has displaced more than 9,000 people from their homes into 10 relief camps.

Also read: Assam: Baghjan blowout completes two months; flames continue to erupt

The report said the fallout has ‘severely affected’ the area in a radius of 6 km from the well, close to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri-Motapung wetland.

The committee has recommended interim compensation to the affected families.

Meanwhile, in an update on the blowout posted on its official Twitter account Tuesday, OIL listed various measures that were ‘in progress’ under ‘Environment Impact Assessment’ and ‘preparation for capping the well’.

It also said that a ‘survey for assessment of damage for compensation….is in progress’, and that 2,258 families had been surveyed till Monday.

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