Baghjan: Villagers Allege OIL Apathy After PSU Claims Revenue Loss
Oil India Limited (OIL) has claimed to have lost Rs 148 crores following the Baghjan blowout as pointed out by the Union Minister for Petroleum, Dharmendra Pradhan after the closure of oil and gas wells in the vicinity of the fire.
"Oil has lost revenue after 100 days of lack of production. Our operations in 21 oil production sites have been halted by the locals. The BGR5 is one of the 22 wells there," an OIL official spoke to G Plus on condition of anonymity.
The BGR 5 well, on May 27, spewed hydrocarbons across a huge radius raining the adjoining villages in Baghjan with associated condensate. The blowout caught fire on 9th June when well control experts from M/S Alert Disaster Control had arrived at the scene to begin work on capping the well and is continuing to rage. The fire has caused massive destruction to personal property and the environment.
Now, OIL is facing flak over its inability to douse the fire. But the PSU maintains that they are fully vested in the contingency efforts. "We are currently focused on stopping the fire and later we will focus more on re-opening the production,” added the official.
The locals of the area have rebuked the claims of the public sector undertaking (PSU) as misleading. G Plus spoke to Satyajit Moran of the Baghjan Gaon Milanjyoti Juba Sangha, who refuted the claims made by OIL saying, "They have around 27 producing sites in that area, out which 10 are running. Now, they are blaming us for halting their operations.”
On the issue of the loss incurred by the company, Moran responded, “We have no environment to stay and there are now cases of dead babies being reported. Our cattle are badly affected and a lot of cows have died. We don’t know about their loss but what about our loss? Our nature has been destroyed, how can we survive?”
The blur in compensation
The villagers of the BGR5 well vicinity who belong to Natun and Baghjan Gaon have had to rehabilitate ever since the blowout. They were exposed to the triple challenge of COVID-19, floods and an inferno that doesn’t seem to stop.
On 8th September last, 2,756 families had been identified for compensation in Doomdooma and Tinsukia Circles. Rs 10,93,50,500 had been deposited with district administration by OIL for providing one-time compensation of Rs 30,000 each to the 3,645 affected families.
Further, the NGT also directed payment of interim compensation as Category 1: Rs. 25 lakhs (to those whose houses have been completely gutted by fire), Category 2: Rs. 10 lakhs (to those whose houses have been severely damaged) and Category 3: Rs. 2.5 lakhs (to those whose houses have been moderately/partially damaged or whose standing crops and horticulture have been partially damaged).
However, locals claim lack of proper distribution of compensation has led to resentment among the affected villagers. “OIL is lying as they are insisting that they have controlled the fire, but the locals are still disturbed. They have given money but the people listed in the latter two lists have not received any,” said Dharmen Moran, a resident of Baghjan.
The bigger environmental issue
Maguri Beel is a large wetland located 3.8 kms away from Guijan Ghat, gateway of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Biosphere Reserve near the affected Baghjan site. Maguri provides crucial habitat to numerous species, notably resident and migratory birds as well as being a fishery resource, a flood buffer and a water and sediment regime regulator. The wetland has taken a considerable blow post the oil spill and blast that no amount of monetary compensation can replenish. “Things have not changed since the blast. There is no underwater policy so far to treat the wetland,” said local environmentalist Niranta Gohain.
The BP Katekey Report prepared at the outset of the Baghjan blast raised the sensitive issue of Maguri. G Plus spoke to environmental lawyer Abhishek Poraxar, who also seconded the gravity of the situation that befalls the wetland. “Maguri should be declared a bird sanctuary or should be added to the Dibru-Saikowa by extending it.” He raised the need for better preparedness of disasters and stated that “oil spill protocols have to be followed with latest technology.”
The loss of both ecology and livelihood is a unique challenge to Baghjan following the condensate spill. As such, this has led to continuous agitation among the people in the area while the wildlife continues to suffer silently.
- Baghjan Blowout
- Oil India Limited
- Union Minister for Petroleum
- Assam News