A division bench of Gauhati High Court in Guwahati on December 7 stayed the Centre’s permission to government-owned Oil India Limited (OIL) to drill seven wells inside a famous national park in Assam, officials said.
The Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, where the OIL proposed to drill for its ambitious hydrocarbon projects, is adjacent to Baghjan well in Tinsukia district, where after nearly six months blowout well was successfully “killed” and the 160-day-long fire there was doused completely on November 15.
A court official said that the division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice (acting) N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Manish Chowdhury stayed the central government’s environmental clearance following hearing a PIL filed jointly by advocate Mrinmoy Khataniar and mountaineer Amar Jyoti Deka.
The PIL was earlier filed against the Centre’s approval to OIL for drilling inside the forest and the national park, a biodiversity hot-spot, by amending existing norms like public hearing under the draft Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2020.
The high court has stayed the Centre’s environmental clearance on May 11 for non-compliance of the Supreme Court order passed on September 7, 2017 which required the OIL to conduct the Bio-Diversity Impact Assessment study. ‘
“The High Court Division Bench moved a step further and under its power conferred under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and on prima facie being satisfied that the OIL had failed to carry out the standard prescribed as reflected in the apex court order,” the official said.
The petitioners’ advocate Debajit Kumar Das said that the high court was prima facie satisfied that OIL had failed to carry out the bio-diversity assessment study and hence it stayed the exploration and drilling of seven hydrocarbon projects in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
Dibru-Saikhowa: HC had imposed fine on Assam Forest Department for failing to submit affidavit
The Gauhati High Court had on October 20 imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on Assam Forest Department for failing to submit an affidavit about the violation of the Supreme Court order related to the Bio-Diversity Impact Assessment study.
The PIL also argued that if the OIL is allowed to undertake the drilling then similar situations like Baghjan’s gas well leakage can take place there too, thereby threatening the adjoining environment and human habitations.
The OIL had claimed that it would drill the seven wells inside the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park from about 1.5 km distance outside the boundary of the forest with the help of advanced technology.
The company had stressed that no effect to the environment and Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is envisaged as they would use very contemporary technology.