The National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked Oil India Limited (OIL) to deposit Rs. 25 crore for the damage caused to both environment and humans by the blowout and fire at Baghjan gas well in Assam's Tinsukia district.
The NGT also ordered for setting up a committee of experts to investigate the issues concerning the gas well tragedy and the damage caused.
The gas well at Baghjan, situated about 500-kms east of Guwahati blew out on May 27 and caught fire on June 9 leading to deaths of two fire-fighters, displacement of over 10,000 people, caused damage to a nearby waterbody, tea gardens and the environment. Experts are still struggling to douse the fire in the gas well.
"In view of the primae facie case made out against OIL 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 Rs. 25 crores with the district magistrate, Tinsukia and shall abide by the further orders of the court," a bench of the NGT, New Delhi comprising justice S.P. Wangdi and expert member Siddhanta Das said on Wednesday.
The order was issued while acting on a petition filed by environmentalist Bonani Kakkar complaining that the blowout and the fire caused enormous destruction and damage to the ecology.
The NGT bench said that the committee of experts to be headed by Justice B. P. Katakey, a retired judge of Gauhati High Court will study the issues concerning the natural gas well tragedy. The committee will investigate the cause of the gas and oil leaks, extent of damage caused to humans, wildlife and environment, health hazard caused to public, identify the contamination of water, air and soil in the area, if any, impact on eco-sensitive zone of Dibru Saikhowa National Park, which is situated a few kms away and the Maguri Motapung wetland nearby.
Kakkar's petition also stated that the blowout left behind huge volumes of residues as gas condensate, which is a mixture of chemical compounds that are toxic for land and vegetation and is a known carcinogenic. It further alleged that the OIL did not have a mitigation plan for such a disaster.