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Baghjan blowout ups threat to Dibru Saikhowa ecosystem


GUWAHATI, June 1 - With Oil India Limited�s Baghjan gas well blowout yet to be contained and the OIL authorities stating that it would take several days to put a stop to the uncontrolled escape of gas, the possibility of a severe impact on the nearby Dibru Saikhowa National Park has increased.

Already, a Gangetic river dolphin and some fish have been found dead in the Maguri Motapung Beel, a prime wetland near the blowout site that extends into the national park.

The blowout has also coincided with the recent move of OIL to conduct drilling for exploration of hydrocarbon reserves beneath the ground in the national park through extended reach drill (ERD) technology which the oil exploration company claims to be safe. But this has not assuaged conservation groups that fear serious damage to the park�s ecosystem by such �unwarranted interventions�.

Voicing concern over the move, environmental NGO Aaranyak demanded an adequate explanation from OIL with supporting documentary evidence. OIL claims that drilling will take place at an average distance of more than 1.5 km from the park boundary with a target depth of 3.5-4 km below the surface.

�We would like to know whether OIL has already been using the ERD technology elsewhere in Assam? If so, we demand documentary evidence of the use of this technology and related studies on the environment should be in public domain,� Aaranyak said in a statement.

Concerned over the environmental impact of the drilling using ERD technology, which has not yet been tested in the eastern Assam landscape and its ecosystem that is likely to be threatened by the new application, Aaranyak said the environment impact report (EIA) of 2018 mentions about pollution sources and expresses concern on the possibility of noise pollution to be a reason for fauna moving away from the project site temporarily.

�Since, from the existing EIA report it is not clear on what would be the radius of impact in the project site, we demand a proper investigation from OIL in this matter. We are also concerned on the discharge of pollutants from oil drilling into a natural drainage channel..., considering the presence of several nearby ecologically significant sites such as Dibru Saikhowa National Park as well as nearby Maguri-Motapung wetland,� it said.

Terming it as of particular concern, Aaranyak said the entire ecosystem of Dibru Saikhowa as well as Maguri-Motapung is wetland dependent and some of the globally-threatened species found in the area are known to be sensitive to the increase of even minor amounts of pollution as well as physical disturbance.

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