The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday directed Oil India Limited to pay an interim fine of Rs 25 crore for the damage caused to public health and wildlife due to the fire at its Baghjan gas well in Assam’s Tinsukia town earlier this month, PTI reported. The well had been spewing gas since a major blowout on May 27.
The green court’s order came on a petition filed by activist Bonani Kakkar and others, who alleged that Oil India authorities failed to prevent the blowout at the site. The petitioners told the court that the blowout left a gas residue, which is toxic for land and vegetation. They alleged that the blowout endangered lives and occupations.
The petitioners also added that oil from the Baghjan well spilled into the Dibru river, which passes through a biodiversity area called Maguri-Motapung wetlands and along the Dibru Saikhowa National Park.
“In view of the prima facie case made out against Oil India Ltd on the extent of damage caused to the environment and biodiversity, damage to both human and wildlife, public health and, having regard to the financial worth of the Company and the extent of damage, we direct the OIL to deposit an initial amount of 25 crore with Tinsukia District Magistrate,” the green court bench of Justice SP Wangdi and expert member Siddhanta Das said in its order.
The green court bench also constituted an expert committee headed by a former High Court judge to visit the oil well and evaluate the extent of loss caused by the blowout. The court directed the committee to submit its report within a month and said it will hear the case next on July 29.
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Last week, the Pollution Control Board of Assam had sent a notice to Oil India over the blowout at its well. The pollution control body alleged that the blowout at the site and the resulting fire were caused due to Oil India’s negligence. The pollution control body also accused the company of violating laws and causing damage to the environment. Oil India, however, claimed that the notice against it had been withdrawn.
Oil India’s natural gas well in Assam’s Tinsukia district caught fire on June 9. The company India had said that the fire could take weeks to extinguish. Two of the company’s firefighters had been found dead near the well.