Assam Oil Well Fire: Was the Warning Ignored?

The Assam OIL well fire at Bhaghjan, Tinsukia has burned villages and harmed many exotic species. The oil spillage has led to the contamination of nearby wetlands, such as the Maguru-Motapong Wetland, which is home to many species of birds in India. The fire has also caused destruction to the flora and fauna in the area. The smoke of the fire can be seen from a distance of ten kilometers from the site. The images of the fire have left people distraught.

The fire that brokeout at the OIL’s blowout site on 9 June, is not the first time a mishap of this kind has occurred. In 2005 similar incident happened at Dikom, which required experts to fly in and control the fire. The recent incident in Assam’s Tinsukia, Gas had been spilling for fourteen days before it caught ablaze. The fountain of crude oil that was sent into the air due to failure in controlling the pressure, has left many people in a dire situation and they are being evacuated to a safer spot.

On May 19, Oil India Limited was granted permission for extension of drilling by the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Forest and Climate Change. The drilling site was too close to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park. However, the possibility of extensive damage being caused to the flora and fauna including the  rare and exotic species like Endangered River Dolphin was ignored. 13-day spillage, followed by a massive fire breakout destroyed the biodiversity enormously.

Many people had protested against the drilling close to the national park, but their pleas were ignored, and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change gave their clearance for the drilling. OIL assured that no damage will be done to the environment.

In terrible times of the pandemic where the situation everywhere is dire and abject, this devastating incident will only prove to add on to the national crises. With families being evacuated and people being given shelter at public schools, social distancing and preventive measures are thrown out of the window.

The ignorance of state government and clearances given by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change without much inspection and research led this major incident. It resulted in forming another crisis amidst the ongoing Corona crisis. Many activists did speak agianst the decision and expressed their concern over the drilling near a reserved biosphere. However, they were all ignored.

Was the decision to give clearance to the OIL drilling project made by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and climate change well thought after? This crisis could have been averted by not neglecting the standard drilling norms and considering the sensitivity around the national park.

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