NEW DELHI/DIBRUGARH, June 25 - The Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal in New Delhi has imposed an initial penalty of Rs 25 crore on Oil India Limited (OIL), and has ordered the constitution of an experts� committee to go into the entire gamut of the Baghjan oilwell disaster and come up with relief, rehabilitation, regeneration and future accident avoidance suggestions. This committee will be headed by Justice BP Katakey, Retired Judge of the Gauhati High Court. The penalty money will be vested with the DC, Tinsukia for the time being.
The latest development has come to light today after the NGT issued the order yesterday, and listing the matter for next hearing on July 29. The current arguments were via video conferencing. The NGT was hearing a case against OIL filed by Bonani Kakkar, and another applicant, the Wildlife and Environment Conservation Organisation. The NGT-ordered committee will have seven other members: the member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board; a senior expert from CSIR; Dr Sarbeswar Kalita, Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, Gauhati University; AK Johari, retired IFS officer and former member of the Biodiversity Board; Ajit Kumar Hazarika, former CMD of ONGC; member secretary or senior scientist from the Assam Pollution Control Board; and the Deputy Commissioner, Tinsukia. The CPCB has been assigned as the nodal agency for all activities of the committee, while the Assam Government has been asked to bear the logistics.
As per the order of the NGT, this committee will look into thirteen major aspects to the Baghjan oilwell disaster. These include the cause of the oil and gas leak, extent and loss of damage to life; wildlife, environment; damage and health hazard caused to the public; whether any contamination has been caused to water, air and soil of the area of the oilwell and its vicinity, extent of contamination of waters of nearby rivers due to oil spill; impact of eco sensitive zone of the Dibru Saikhowa National Park and the Maguri Motapung Wetland; impact on agriculture, fishery and domestic animals in the area; whether any mitigation measure has been put in place by OIL to offset the incidents like the one in question; (fix responsibility) persons responsible for the fire incidents and the cause of failure to prevent the mishap, assessment of compensation for the victims and cost of restitution of the damage caused to property and the environment; preventive and remedial measures, etc.
The NGT has asked the Committee to submit its recommendations �as expeditiously as possible, and not later than 30 days from hence�.
A top source in OIL told this reporter that though OIL has been fined heavily by the Green Court, the company expects the NGT-appointed committee to come up with recommendations as it deems fit, and that OIL would readily comply with these.
It is expected that members of the Committee would get to work from next week itself.
Meanwhile, the general opinion in the Doomdooma area is that yesterday�s bridge collapse on the Doomdooma Dighaltarrang Baghjan road over the Dangori river is a manifestation of the ongoing and incessant tremors that has become routine since June 9. Though seismographs are monitoring the tremors, the intensity of these earth vibrations have not diminished. Locals believe that the swollen Dangori with its strong current has easily eroded the Dighaltarrang side of the bridge, making it to cave in on Wednesday morning. With this, road communications to Baghjan and Dighaltarrang have become lengthy via another road. The RCC bridge collapse has also put up a severe obstacle in the movement of equipment at Baghjan for its fire dousing operations, as this road was the main route for the heavy vehicles. A bailey support would be put in place as a temporary measure, it is learnt. This will restore road communications for the time being.