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Local residents shutdown Baghjan OIL EPS

By Ron Duarah

DIBRUGARH, June 18 - A day after a tripartite discussion among Oil India Limited (OIL), the Tinsukia district administration and the Baghjan Milanjyoti Yuvak Sangha failed to arrive at any conclusion, local villagers of Baghjan today staged a blockade of the EPS (Early Production System) facility of OIL at Baghjan and stalled all works for the day.

Villagers as well as members of the Milanjyoti Yuvak Sangha told reporters that they are tired of listening to hollow promises by politicians, civil officials and OIL officials. Though OIL is trying its best to keep the villagers in good humour in their trying times, villagers are getting more and more restless as the days progress. Their anger also stems from seeing the roaring flames from the BGN-5 oilwell, that continues to burn non stop for the tenth day today.

An OIL official said the fire dousing operations are cumbersome, highly risky, and takes quite a few days for everything to be put in place before the men and machines begin their work. The Baghjan disaster has been the oil industry�s biggest ever disaster, ever since crude oil was spudded in nearby Digboi, almost a 150 years ago.

A dozen shelters for the disaster affected families are functioning in the Baghjan � Dighaltarrang area, and three more are functioning in Guijan. The Guijan camps were necessitated since the wee hours of June 10, following violent earth tremors, forcing people out of their sleep to run out of their homes. These 700 families are from the Natungaon, Gotong and surrounding areas, with individuals numbering about 1600 (Not all people of these families are staying at the camps). In the Baghjan-Dighaltarrang area across the Maguri Beel, the sheltered families number about 2000, with about 9000 persons in all. These people have been either displaced as their homes have been razed by the fire or have been shifted on safety concerns by the administration. The locals are longing to get back to their homes, but as the actual fire control is yet to begin, they are getting increasingly restive, says Saroj Gohain of the All Assam Muttuck Sanmilan. The Baghjan shelter camp inmates are in the dozen odd camps since May 27, with living conditions unworthy of the locals� normal lifestyle.

It is learnt that the promised cash of Rs 30,000 per family has not yet been handed or transferred to the beneficiaries. This will be the first instalment of a compensation package. The delay is due to the slow progress of documenting the beneficiaries� details by the Tinsukia civil administration. The civil administration on its part is overworked due to the Covid-19 emergency, flood preparations, etc, said an additional deputy commissioner.

Elsewhere in Baghjan, Environment Impact Assessment study has begun, with workers from M/s ERM India Pvt. Limited getting on their assignment. They are also scheduled to assess an environment & ecological survey within the vicinity of BGN-5 oilwell, some portions of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri Beel, including the Motapung part.

Well known environmental research organization, The Energy & Resources Institute, better known as TERI, has also started gauging air quality and noise levels in the Baghjan area. TERI is also assigned bio-remediation responsibilities, for soil quality studies and its improvement suggestions.

CSIR-NEIST (a.k.a. RRL-Jorhat) has installed five seismometers at as many locations to study the strange tremors that have been rocking Baghjan and its surrounding villages incessantly since June 9. The team is likely to install more seismometers to find out what is causing the quake-like ground vibrations. The tremors have caused cracks in many houses.

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