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Assam: Pollution board revokes closure notice to OIL

Assam Pollution Control Board (PCB) has withdrawn the Closure Notice which directed Oil India Ltd (OIL) to close down all production and drilling ops of all installations of Baghjan Oilfield. It has been withdrawn in pursuance of the affidavit submitted by OIL.

The Pollution Control Board, Assam, has served a closure notice to the Oil India Limited for carrying illegal drilling at the Baghjan oil field in the Tinsukia district. The board on June 19th, 2020, directed the OIL to close down its production as well as drilling operations at the Baghjan oil field in the Tinsukia district. The board also directed the OIL authority to extinguish the fire that engulfed the area after a blast at the BGR 5 well on June 9th, 2020.

To take stock of the situation Inside Northeast contacted Pollution Board Member Secretary Dhajen Das. He responded as to why the closure was given in the first place and why they are now revoked and other challenges. “Certain things were not fulfilled, such as hazardous waste annual report was not given that’s why issued the closure notice. Now, they have given an affidavit that rules will be followed and that’s why we have withdrawn”.

Also read: Assam: Farmers protest over breakage of water supply from Bhutan

As for the clearance given without taking local sentiments into consideration and the issue of 10km eco-sensitive zone in Assam, he stated that in “2005 impact assessment didn’t happen and it only began after the 2006 September notification”.

He then raised another aspect that connects the issue to the oil mishap regarding well permission. “All oil PSUs bet it OIL or ONGC have the same problem with NOCs taking for the entire field instead of the well as the drilling is done in many areas, we have requested to now apply for permission per well”. However, Das couldn’t clear whether any policy decision has been made regarding in Assam.

“We are short-staffed but now we will direct our resources to OIL – we are trying our best so that we never have another Baghjan”.

Going forward: Assam

The assurances which the PCB has given is complicated as they have themselves accepted being “understaffed”. How will they increase their proposed monitoring is difficult to ascertain? If the existing framework failed to stop a Baghjan like incident in Assam how much can we depend on the same framework to avoid another repeat?

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