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NGT rejects OIL�s objections to report

By Sivasish Thakur
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GUWAHATI, Aug 7 - The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday rejected the objections raised by the Oil India Limited to the findings of the NGT-appointed expert committee on the Baghjan blowout.

The panel had cited serious deficiency in OIL�s planning of critical operations besides �mismatch between planning and execution in site�. It termed the environmental and other damages caused by the blowout as extensive.

The NGT also endorsed the recommendations of the expert panel on the issue of compensation to the affected families.

�We have given due consideration to the objections. We are unable to accept the same at this stage for prima facie view and interim compensation. The recommendations of the committee on the subject of compensation for three categories of victims are accepted with the clarification that the compensation already paid will be taken into account and excluded from the interim compensation recommended by the Committee,� NGT Principal Bench, New Delhi, stated while having a hearing through video conferencing on Thursday.

It added that compensation to victims of categories (ii) and (iii) would be subject to identification by the district administration which might be completed preferably within one month. It also requested the Assam State Legal Services Authority to oversee the process.

The NGT said that it also accepted the recommendation for interim compensation to the families who had moved out of the relief camps after the blowout of May 27, 2020, and to the families who had shifted to the relief camps after explosion on June 9, 2020.

�The disbursement may be made through the district administration by deposit to the bank accounts of the affected families which may also be overseen by the State Legal Services Authority.

The amount calculated and quantified by the District Magistrate may be made available by the OIL within two weeks of letter of the District Magistrate,� it said, adding that other interim recommendations may be complied to the extent there is no dispute, subject to call being taken by statutory authorities concerned and finally by the Tribunal on the next date.

Earlier, OIL had in its objections to the expert panel findings reasoned that the observations of the committee were based on review of secondary data which needed to be further verified. The OIL had contended before the Tribunal that no site visit was undertaken and that statements of Niranta Gohain, �a so-called environmentalist� were not credible. It further said that the report of Wildlife Institute of India (WWI) was based on post-blowout incident and that OIL had been following all safeguards and SOPs and employed experienced contractors but the said contractor violated the laid-down procedures.

The OIL also argued that Consent to Establish (CTE) and Consent to Operate (CTO) were taken by composite application as per practice being followed and that EC was not required at the time operations of OIL commenced as the project value was less than Rs 50 crore. It further sought to attribute the contribution of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) to tea gardens, forestland and insecticides/pesticides.

The expert committee in its preliminary report was �of the unanimous view that the well Baghjan-5 blowout and subsequent explosion has led to extensive damage to both the publicly-owned resources, including the Maguri-Motapung wetland, DSNP, the eco-sensitive zone including the water bodies, air, wildlife and the natural resources surrounding it. Additionally, it has caused irreparable physical harm and damage to privately-owned property of the survivors in the affected villages.�

The committee also attributed the blowout to OIL�s deficiency in understanding of the gravity of a critical operation like removal of BOP without having a confirmed and tested secondary safety barrier.

�There was deficiency in proper planning of critical operations. There was a clear mismatch between planning and its execution at site and deviations from the SOP. There were serious deficiencies of proper level of supervision of critical operation at well site both from the contractor as well as from OIL,� it observed.

The NGT has asked the committee to give its final report before the next date of hearing scheduled for November 3, 2020.

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NGT rejects OIL�s objections to report

GUWAHATI, Aug 7 - The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday rejected the objections raised by the Oil India Limited to the findings of the NGT-appointed expert committee on the Baghjan blowout.

The panel had cited serious deficiency in OIL�s planning of critical operations besides �mismatch between planning and execution in site�. It termed the environmental and other damages caused by the blowout as extensive.

The NGT also endorsed the recommendations of the expert panel on the issue of compensation to the affected families.

�We have given due consideration to the objections. We are unable to accept the same at this stage for prima facie view and interim compensation. The recommendations of the committee on the subject of compensation for three categories of victims are accepted with the clarification that the compensation already paid will be taken into account and excluded from the interim compensation recommended by the Committee,� NGT Principal Bench, New Delhi, stated while having a hearing through video conferencing on Thursday.

It added that compensation to victims of categories (ii) and (iii) would be subject to identification by the district administration which might be completed preferably within one month. It also requested the Assam State Legal Services Authority to oversee the process.

The NGT said that it also accepted the recommendation for interim compensation to the families who had moved out of the relief camps after the blowout of May 27, 2020, and to the families who had shifted to the relief camps after explosion on June 9, 2020.

�The disbursement may be made through the district administration by deposit to the bank accounts of the affected families which may also be overseen by the State Legal Services Authority.

The amount calculated and quantified by the District Magistrate may be made available by the OIL within two weeks of letter of the District Magistrate,� it said, adding that other interim recommendations may be complied to the extent there is no dispute, subject to call being taken by statutory authorities concerned and finally by the Tribunal on the next date.

Earlier, OIL had in its objections to the expert panel findings reasoned that the observations of the committee were based on review of secondary data which needed to be further verified. The OIL had contended before the Tribunal that no site visit was undertaken and that statements of Niranta Gohain, �a so-called environmentalist� were not credible. It further said that the report of Wildlife Institute of India (WWI) was based on post-blowout incident and that OIL had been following all safeguards and SOPs and employed experienced contractors but the said contractor violated the laid-down procedures.

The OIL also argued that Consent to Establish (CTE) and Consent to Operate (CTO) were taken by composite application as per practice being followed and that EC was not required at the time operations of OIL commenced as the project value was less than Rs 50 crore. It further sought to attribute the contribution of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) to tea gardens, forestland and insecticides/pesticides.

The expert committee in its preliminary report was �of the unanimous view that the well Baghjan-5 blowout and subsequent explosion has led to extensive damage to both the publicly-owned resources, including the Maguri-Motapung wetland, DSNP, the eco-sensitive zone including the water bodies, air, wildlife and the natural resources surrounding it. Additionally, it has caused irreparable physical harm and damage to privately-owned property of the survivors in the affected villages.�

The committee also attributed the blowout to OIL�s deficiency in understanding of the gravity of a critical operation like removal of BOP without having a confirmed and tested secondary safety barrier.

�There was deficiency in proper planning of critical operations. There was a clear mismatch between planning and its execution at site and deviations from the SOP. There were serious deficiencies of proper level of supervision of critical operation at well site both from the contractor as well as from OIL,� it observed.

The NGT has asked the committee to give its final report before the next date of hearing scheduled for November 3, 2020.

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