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Gauhati HC stays nod for Oil India work at Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Assam

A view of the Maguri Beel wetland near Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Tinsukia district of Assam. File photo

A view of the Maguri Beel wetland near Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Tinsukia district of Assam. File photo

The Gauhati High Court has stayed the environmental clearance given to Oil India Limited (OIL) for extended-reach drilling (ERD) operations at seven locations beneath the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in eastern Assam.

Hearing a public interest litigation on December 7, a Bench comprising acting Chief Justice N. Kotishwar Singh and Justice Manish Choudhury issued the stay order on the May 11 environmental clearance that OIL had received.

The stay was in view of the non-compliance of a September 7, 2017, order of the Supreme Court in an earlier case that required the exploration major to conduct biodiversity impact assessment study at the ecologically fragile national park covering 350 sq km.

The top court had in 2017 asked OIL to prepare and submit a biodiversity impact study to the Assam State Biodiversity Board.

In an affidavit submitted to the High Court on November 17, the Assam Forest Department said ₹22 lakh was given to OIL for conducting the study but it was yet to begin work on it.

An OIL spokesperson said the exploration major will not take up any drilling till the Supreme Court order is complied with.

“As per our commitment made to the apex court, we will not start our ERD operations before carrying out the biodiversity impact assessment study. We have not carried out any operations of the ERD project. We have already begun the ground work for carrying out the said study,” he said from OIL’s headquarters Duliajan in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh district.

“ERD does not involve drilling in the national park. This is a technology that will enable us to explore crude or gas deep down horizontally after drilling vertically from a safe distance beyond the protected area,” he added.

Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is designated as a biosphere reserve. It houses many endangered species and is rich in fish diversity. Created to help conserve the habitat of the rare white-winged wood duck, the park is home to the water buffalo, black-breasted parrot bill, tiger and capped langur.

A major attraction at the park is a sizeable population of feral horses that have descended from trained horses abandoned by the Allied forces during World War II.

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 3:35:46 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/gauhati-hc-stays-nod-for-oil-india-work-at-dibru-saikhowa-national-park-in-assam/article33277436.ece