Gas flow from OIL well on, more people evacuated in Assam

Guwahati, Jun 3 (PTI) PSU major Oil India on Wednesday said gas is uncontrollably flowing even after seven days of a well blowout at Baghjan in Tinsukia district and it has spread to a larger area, forcing the company and authorities to evacuate more people to camps.

The opposition Congress urged the Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan to announce an interim financial relief to protect the environment and address the livelihood issues of the local population.

A joint secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas visited the site and held discussions with various stakeholders, while two experts from a Singapore-based company are likely to reach on Thursday.

Oil India Ltd (OIL) said the well is 'flowing gas uncontrollably' and pumping of water to the well through the casing valve is in progress to minimise chances of catching fire.

'Around 1,610 families have been evacuated from the nearby affected areas and are camped in four relief camps set up at Baghjan Dighulturrang LP School, St Joseph School- Baghjan Tea Estate, Gateline LP School-Dighultarrang and No. 1 Baghjan Gaon LP School,' an OIL statement said.

The company is preparing another relief camp at Bandarkhati as a standby option to accommodate more people if required, it added.

Till Tuesday, only around 650 families were evacuated and lodged in three relief camps with the help of Tinsukia District Administration.

'All necessary supports for stay, food (including baby food), water, toilets, electricity and medicines have been provided at the relief camps with support from district administration and local organisations,' the company said in the statement.

On May 27, a major blowout took place at a producing gas well of OIL at Baghjan, next to Dibru Saikhowa National Park, forcing the administration to evacuate thousands of people living nearby due to sprouting of natural gas and condensate droplets.

Congress Lok Sabha Member Gaurav Gogoi wrote to Pradhan on Wednesday requesting him to visit the area and release an interim financial support for restoration of the environment and livelihoods of local community.

'I would like to inform you that it is a serious situation for Dibru Saikhowa National Park. The oil seepage is spreading to a large area of the wetland, which is directly and inextricably linked to Dibru Saikhowa National Park, which is providing a secure home to wide ranging fauna, including birds and aquatic species.

'The floating crude oil is a definite threat to the area's rich biodiversity... I request you to pay an urgent visit to the Baghjan oil field to inspect the affected region and take appropriate action against those accountable for the leakage,' Gogoi said in his letter.

Meanwhile, joint secretary in Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas Amar Nath reached OIL Field Headquarters at Duliajan and reviewed the situation with Assam Tea Tribe Welfare Minister Sanjoy Kishan in presence of Tinsukia Deputy Commissioner, SP and officials from Forest Department and the State Pollution Control Board.

Nath also visited the site along with senior officials of the OIL.

The company said, 'A Singapore based firm Alert Disaster Control is being mobilised and two experts are expected to reach the site on June 4.' Giving a status of the repair work, OIL said digging of a water reservoir near the well site and preparation of the area for placement of two 2500 gallons capacity pumps are going on to have a huge quantity of water to be required at the time of capping of the well.

Fabrication and testing of equipment required for controlling the well is taking place at OIL workshop as it has been assessed that approach to the vicinity of the well would not be safe due to gas gushing at high pressures.

On May 29, the Assam Forest Department issued a notice to OIL after dead fishes and river dolphins from nearby Dibru Saikhowa National Park were reported due to the gas well blowout. PTI TR RG RG