Lesson not learnt from earlier Assam blowouts: Wildlife Institute

 thehindu.com  08/02/2020 13:58:11 

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 Assams Tinsukia district. The well burst into flames, yet to be doused, on June 9.

Also read | Baghjan blaze: Closure of wells may lead to more blowouts, warns OIL

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.

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.

We are unable to obtain any meaningful information about restoration of areas surrounding the earlier well blowouts. OIL does not have any information on their website nor have they provided information about their emergency plans as to how to deal with leaks and blowouts and restoration plans in case of an oil spill despite our request for this information, the report said.

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