The Assam Forest Department, in an affidavit to the Gauhati High Court, said that no public consultation was conducted by Oil India Limited while granting “environmental clearance” for the proposed drilling operations of seven wells in and around Dibru Saikhowa National Park, near the Baghjan oil well tragedy site.
Oil India Limited (OIL) maintained that existing rules do not require it to conduct public consultations and added that oil and gas exploration and extraction has not started yet. It added that no biodiversity study of the proposed site has been done yet. OIL said it is committed to undertaking the study.
“The board did not receive any communication from OIL in the matter. Thus, the board has not conducted any biodiversity impact assessment study in the proposed site (near Dibru Saikhowa),” the Forest Department’s affidavit said.
It added that the Forest Department was also not aware of the Supreme Court’s order requiring the company to carry out the study through the board as no communication was received from OIL.
The petition was jointly filed by advocate Mrinmoy Khataniar and mountaineer Amar Jyoti Deka against the central government’s approval to OIL for drilling inside the Dibru Saikhowa, which is very rich in biodiversity, by amending existing norms like public hearing under the draft Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2020.
‘No public consultation on proposed drilling at Dibru Saikhowa’
The petitioners’ advocate Rakhee Sirauthia Chowdhury, told The News Mill: “The OIL authorities filed an affidavit wherein a categorical statement has been made that ‘no public consultation was conducted while granting Environmental Clearance’ for the 7 ERD projects as proposed in and around Dibru Saikhowa National Park, since they now fall under the B2 category, as per the EIA amendment notification of January 16. It is further stated that the company is committed to the undertaking submitted before the Supreme Court (with regard to the Biodiversity Impact study), which will be implemented prior to the start of the drilling operation.”
She said the Forest Department has also filed another affidavit stating that no Biodiversity Impact Assessment has yet been carried out by the ASBB, which in fact fortifies and vindicates the stand of the petitioners.
The OIL authorities sought time before the court during the proceedings on November 17 to file their response against this affidavit filed by the state.
The matter has now been fixed for further orders on December 7.
The Gauhati High Court earlier had slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 on Assam Forest Department for failing to file an affidavit in the case related to permission given to Oil India Limited to drill seven wells inside Dibru Saikhowa National Park.