Will need another 6-8 weeks to douse Baghjan fire, says Assam govt

Assam government on September 2 said that it may take another 6-8 weeks to douse the fire at Baghjan oil and gas well which started leaking gas and condensate on May 27 and caught a massive fire on June 9.

The oil well, operated by Oil India Limited, has since been burning with a team of local and foreign experts trying to bring under control.

Assam Industry and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary, informed in the state assembly on September 2 that while it may take 6-8 weeks for killing the fire, a temporary solution to bring it under control is likely to be in place within 10 days.

Patowary said an expert team and specialised equipment are being flown in a chartered flight from Canada. He said that diversion of gas to nearby Early Production Systems is being undertaken and the process will be completed within 10 days, which will provide temporary succour by bringing relief in the intensity of the fire and heat till the well is permanently capped.

He mentioned that previous attempts to douse the fire, including by experts of Alert Disaster Control of Singapore, have failed, but the OIL and other agencies were working relentlessly to bring it under control.

On the damage caused and compensation offered, the minister informed that 3,000 people were sheltered in relief camps after the blast and fire in the area.

Twelve houses were completely burnt in the fire and compensation of Rs 20 lakh each to the families has already been sanctioned by OIL and major portion paid, with the compensation amount likely to increase by another Rs 5 lakh each.

Moreover, 57 more families will get Rs 10 lakh each and 561 families will be paid Rs 2.5 lakh each as ex-gratia, as per a report of the Tinsukia deputy commissioner.

Ex-gratia of Rs 30,000 to 1484 families and Rs 25,000 to 1097 families has already been paid, Patowary said.

The minister also mentioned that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had announced seven special initiatives for the affected areas when he had visited Baghjan, which included building of concrete road, skill development centre and developing Maguri Motapung beel as international tourist destination.

He added that as stated by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan during his visit to Baghjan, stern action will be taken against those found guilty of negligence leading to the disaster.

Earlier, raising the matter during the Zero Hour, Congress legislator Durga Bhumij said people of the area are being forced to live in relief camps since the gas leakage started on May 27 and the fire broke out on June 9.

“It is nearly 100 days but no solution is in sight. The government must pressurise the OIL to find a solution soon,” he said, alleging that the compensation being paid was not commensurate with the damages suffered by the people.

He claimed that stillborn children were being born in the area since the blast, while mental health of the people have also deteriorated leading at least one person in a relief camp to die by suicide.

Bhumij, who is the local MLA, also pointed to the environmental damage caused by the fire and demanded proper compensation in this regard also.

Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia, also speaking on the matter, said the government should claim proper compensation from OIL and the amounts paid to the people should be increased.

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