Other States

Lessons not learnt from earlier Assam oil well blowouts: WII

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has slammed a petroleum exploration major for not learning any lesson from two earlier oil well blowouts in Assam during the past 15 years and taking steps to restore the environment.

The observation was in the context of the May 27 blowout at Baghjan natural gas well number 5, one of 23 that Oil India Limited (OIL) operates near the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district. The well burst into flames, yet to be doused, on June 9.

The Dehradun-based WII was one of the agencies engaged to carry out the blowout impact study from May 29 to July 7. It submitted a 178-page report to the government on July 15, flagging the poor management of oil spills from wells and emergency response readiness and effectiveness during major accidents.

‘Major damage’

“The oil well spill due to blowout at Baghjan has destroyed 60-70 hectares around the site, which includes crop fields, grasslands and swamps. The oil spread out not only on land but also dispersed into the surrounding rivers and wetlands,” the report said.

“There is a leakage of hazardous and toxic chemicals... There is a substantial decline in the biodiversity of the area, resulting in an unsuitable habitat for aquatic and terrestrial life, which is clearly visible in the mortalities observed. Humans in this area are also impacted,” it said.

The WII report cited two earlier blowouts — at Dikom and Naharkatia-Deohal — to underscore the damage done to water and soil due to leaching of oil. But in Assam, “The entire focus seems to be on closure of well and no restorative process is put in place for remediation of the effect of oil in the terrestrial or aquatic system”, it said.

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 10:53:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/lessons-not-learnt-from-earlier-assam-oil-well-blowouts-wii/article32255172.ece

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