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Ecological disaster at Baghjan

Published: 29th Jun, 2020

Assam’s pollution watchdog has told Oil India Ltd (OIL) to shut down production and drilling at all installations in Upper Assam’s Baghjan oilfield following some irregularities.


Assam’s pollution watchdog has told Oil India Ltd (OIL) to shut down production and drilling at all installations in Upper Assam’s Baghjan oilfield following some irregularities.


About OIL

  • Oil India Limited is the second largest hydrocarbon exploration and production Indian public sector company with its operational headquarters in Duliajan, Assam, India.
  • A Navratna PSU, OIL is a fully integrated Exploration & Production (E&P) company in the upstream sector.
  • OIL was drilling a well at Baghjan which led to a massive blowout. Baghjan is about 17 km from Doomdooma town in Tinsukia district, Assam.
  • The Baghjan oil field has been in operation since 2003 and is one of the high yielding gas and oil fields of OIL.
  • The Baghjan oilfield has 21 functioning wells — four of them are gas wells (including the one that reported the blowout) and 17 are oil wells.

The ecological disaster

  • The ecological disaster atBaghjan in Tinsuika district was precipitated by the blowout at well number 5, reported on May 27.
  • On June 9, the well—located close to the Dibru-Saikhowa national park—caught fire, leading to the deaths of two OIL firefighters.
  • Around 11,000 people from the surrounding villages are now in relief camps set up by the administration.
  • It affected the flora, fauna and wetlands which is close to the Maguri-Motapung wetlandand the ecologically fragile Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

  • Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is located in the Tinsukia district of the state of Assam.
  • This was declared a wildlife Sanctuary in 1986by the government of Assam by uniting two Reserve forest, viz., Dibru and Saikhowa including some other areas.
  • Dibru-Saikhowa wildlife Sanctuary was declared as a National park in 1999.
  • Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is one of the 19 biodiversity hotspotsin the world. It is also a biosphere reserve.
  • The park is bounded by the Brahmaputra River and Arunachal hills in the north and Dibru and Patkai hills on the south.
  • It mainly consists of semi wet evergreen forests, tropical moist deciduous forest, bamboo, cane brakes and grasslands. Situated in the flood plains of Brahmaputra, at an altitude of about 118 m above sea level.

Maguri-Motapung wetland

  • Located less than 10 km south of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is Maguri Motapung beel.
  • Spread over 9.6 sq. km, Maguri Motapung beel was declared an important bird and biodiversity area in 1996.
  • It is host to over 110 bird species, including eight listed as threatened on the IUCN Redlist, such as the swamp grass babbler, the ferruginous duck, the white-winged wood duck and the falcated duck.
  • Other rare and migratory birds that visit this wetland include the lesser adjutant, the swamp francolin, the lesser teal and the bar-headed goose.
  • It is also home to 84 species of fish, including the golden mahseer

Is it first time?

  • Though rare, blowout happens in the oil industry all over the world. Blowout is the worst thing that can happen to an oil industry.
  • ONGC offshore rig ( drilling inside the sea bed), 160 km from Mumbai had a massive blowout in 2005, another blow out at Rudrasagar, Sivsagar of a well belonging to ONGC, a blow out at Dikom, Dibrugarh district in the year 2005 when OIL drilled a well, are few examples.
  • During Dikom blowout, global experts were brought in to contain the blowout which took 45 days.
  • So Baghjan is the second blowout for OIL after a long 15 years.

The closure notice

  • As per the closure notice from PCBA, OIL has been operating the Baghjan oil field installation “without obtaining prior consent to establish/consent to operate from Pollution Control Board Assam, which is a serious violation of the provisions of the Water Act, 1974, Air Act, 1981 as well as Environment Protection Act, 1986”.
  • It is mandatory to obtain prior permission / clearance from MoEF&CC as well as State PCB for production, drilling, pumping of crude oil and laying pipeline activities as per EIA notification, 2006 and various provisions under the Section 25/26 of the Water (Prevention of Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Section 21 of the Air (Prevention of Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Authorization under the Hazardous & other waste (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016 as amended upto date.

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