GUWAHATI, June 18 - The All India People�s Science Network (AIPSN) � a common platform of 40 science organisations from across the country � has expressed serious concern at the Baghjan blowout and subsequent blaze, which is still continuing.
The umbrella organisation has demanded an independent inquiry by a committee of experts led by a sitting judge, or under strict judicial supervision. It also demanded a safety audit especially as regards emergency preparedness and response, at all other wells in the Baghjan oilfield and at other OIL sites in the North East.
In Assam, the Assam Science Society, Ellora Vigyan Mancha and Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Assam are the constituent bodies of AIPSN.
�Oil India Limited�s affected gas well in Baghjan is less than a km from the ecologically rich and fragile Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and is in close proximity to several other ecological hotspots. The incident has, so far, caused at least two deaths and wreaked havoc on the surrounding ecosystem. Extensive damage has also been done to human life, habitat, livelihoods and wellbeing, especially affecting crops, soil, vegetation, water-bodies and aquatic life, wildlife especially birds and microorganisms,� it stated.
As the incident is still unfolding, it has once again shed light on several inter-related aspects like frequent industrial disasters and poor safety record of companies in India, continuing dangerous dismantling of environmental regulations by the Central government, leading to recurrent massive ecological damage along with loss of human lives, livelihoods and habitat, it further added.
Even as the State government has instituted an inquiry, the AIPSN stressed that only an independent probe by a �committee of experts�, free of pressures from the powerful OIL, the Central and State governments and other regulatory authorities � preferably under judicial supervision � can properly bring out all the reasons behind the disaster and the responsibilities of various organisations and institutions involved.
�OIL needs to urgently address safety and emergency preparedness and response, especially in the 18 other wells in the Baghjan oilfield and a total of 59 wells in Assam,� AIPSN asserted.
In a comprehensive communique, analysing several aspects of the oil well blowout on the rich biodiversity of the area, AIPSN stated that the independent inquiry committee should assess and recommend measures related to environmental damage in the area, the cost of which must be borne by OIL.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Climate Change had recently given environmental clearance for exploratory drilling by OIL for hydrocarbons in seven locations in the Dibru-Saikhowa area. In the backdrop of the recent disaster, there is enough space to question such hasty and blanket clearances without rigorous environmental assessment by experts, the science network�s member bodies alleged.