NGT imposes Interim Fine of Rs 25 Crore on OIL over Baghjan Inferno

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The tribunal also formed a high power committee under the chairmanship of Retired Judge B P Katakey to examine the damage
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Guwahati: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered the Oil India Limited (OIL) to pay Rs 25 crores as initial fine while forming a high power committee under the chairmanship of Retired Judge BP Katakey to examine the damage at the Baghjan fire site.

The tribunal has asked the Committee to furnish the report within 30 days. The NGT was taking up a prayer by Bonani Kakkar, an environmentalist.

In the petition, Kakkar said that due to negligence and lapses on the part of OIL, the community as well as the biodiversity of the entire Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve is under threat of irreparable damage.

“The blow-out has left behind huge volumes of residue as gas condensate which is a mixture of chemical compounds that are toxic for land and vegetation and is a known carcinogen. The blowout is not only hazardous to the health of the people but also severely affect their livelihood whose occupation is mainly agriculture, fishing and animal rearing,” the petition said.

The tribunal also took cognizance of the incident where a Gangetic river dolphin, India’s national aquatic animal, has reportedly died due to the gas blowout and many other endangered species of flora and fauna destroyed.

The NGT in response ordered, “In view of the prima 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 ₹25 Crores with Tinsukia District administration.”

The tribunal also observed that to proceed further in the matter effectively, a Committee of Experts should be formed to look into the matter on the initial terms of reference which shall be set out below.

“The Committee shall comprise with Retired Justice Katakey as Chairman; Member Secretary of Central Pollution Control Board; a senior expert from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); Dr. Sarbeswar Kalita, Professor and Head of the Department of Environment Science, Guwahati University; Abhay Kumar Johari, IFS (retired), former Member Biodiversity Board; Ajit Hazarika, ExChairman, ONGCL, Senior Scientist of Assam State Pollution Control Board and Tinsukia district deputy commissioner,” the NGT order said.

The Committee has been given the liberty to co-opt as member or seek opinion from any other expert/ experts or institution/institutions including Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, if felt necessary.

The tribunal has also asked the state government to bear the initial expenditure for the functioning of the Committee.

The Committee was also asked to visit and inspect the site and the area in question and examine on the cause of gas and oil leak, loss and damage caused to human life, wildlife, environment; health hazards caused to the public, check contamination to water, air and soil of the area of the oil well and its vicinity. It will also check the extent of contamination of the water of the Dibru river due to the oil spill and its impact on the eco-sensitive zone of the DibruSaikhowa National Park and Maguri-Motapung Wetland.

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