The baghjan tragedy: Nature VS Technology

9th June, 2020 – a black day to all the Assamese and Indians. On this day  massive fire broke out at an oil field in Assam’s Baghjan. Baghjan is about 17 km from Doomdooma town in Tinsukia district, Assam with a resident population of 4488 persons. Oxygen Oil Field is located near the Dibru saikhowa National Park in Assam and it is also in proximity to a natural wetland called Maguri Motapung Beel. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is the only riverine Island wildlife reserve, globally. The Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is also connected to Namdapha National Park via the wildlife sanctuary.Baghjan Well No. 5  from which the leak occurred,  is located at a distance of 900 metres from the park and adjoins a buffer forested reason surrounding the park.On 18 January 2020, the central government discharged all oil and gas firms conducting exploratory drilling from legal requirements for environmental clearances. Prior to the leak in 2020, the region witnessed protest against  the Government of India for announcing that they had authorised all India Limited to explore the area under Dibru-Saikhowa national park for hydrocarbon. During May 2020, prior to and during the leak, Tinsukia district in Assam experienced heavy rains and flooding in two local rivers – Dibru and Lohit. The region was also placed  in lockdown following the covid-19 pandemic in India.

Baghjan gas leak is a natural gas blow out that happened in Oil India Limited‘s Baghjan oil field in Tinsukia district, Assam, India on 27th may 2020. This incident is also called 2020 Assam Gas and Oil Leak. Baghjan oil field has 21 active Wells, among these 4 produce natural gas and the remaining others produce oil. Well No. 5 of Baghjan Oil Field was established in the year 2006 and it produces natural gas. It drills down to a depth of 3870 metres and was producing between 80,000 to100,000 standard cubic metres of gas per day before the leak. Drilling at the Baghjan 5 no. well, where the leak occurred, was being externalized to an Ahmedabad-based company M/s John energy pvt Ltd. In April 2020 following a lockdown caused by the covid-19 pandemic in India ,Oil India suspended drilling at several of the Wells in the 0Baghjan oil field primarily because of the unavailability of employees. On 20 May 2020, before the leak,  the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change announced that they would be authorising exploration for hydrocarbons under the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park at seven different locations. Oil India Corporation stated that they would be using Extended Reach Drilling (ERD) to explore the Wells without entering the National Park itself. Baghjan Oil Well No 5, at which the leak  occurred, would be one of the bases on which the ERD will extend under the National Park.On 27 may 2020 at 7:30 a.m. residents of Baghjan village in Assam reported hearing a loud sound from the nearby Baghjan Oil Field. The residents of Tinsukia town also confirmed of hearing the sound of the explosion which is located at a distance of 12 km from the Oil Field. On 9 June, 2020 Well No 5 caught fire after efforts to the cap the leak were unsuccessful. The fire occurred at the pedestal of the well while cleaning operations were underway. Following the fire, people who had not yet been evacuated from the local area left, as the fire spread to local grasslands. The fire quickly spread to a larger area and burned down nearby trees, crops and houses. In the fire 4 persons were injured and 50 houses were destroyed. On 10 june 2020, two firefighters Durlov Gogoi and Tikheswar Gohain died fighting the fire. Their bodies were recovered from a water body near the site. On 21st July 2020 an explosion occurred at the Well No.  5  and 3 foreign experts were injured in the incident. Recently a young engineer from Guwahati named Arnab Kishor Bordoloi lost his life at Baghjan. But it’s so disheartening to know that the Company has had no official communication with the family as of yet.  On 10 june 2020, two fire fighters employed by Oil India Limited died while fighting the fire resulting from the gas leak and four other fire fighters also suffered injuries. Following the leak, 1610 local families consisting of approximately 3,000 persons were evacuated to relief camp. As of September 2020, 500 persons are currently still residing in relief camps.  National Green Tribunal ordered Oil India Limited to deposit a sum of 250 million with the District Magistrate of Tinsukia towards compensation and consulted an expert committee to investigate the disaster and recommend  how much compensation was payable to affected persons. The expert committee constituted by the Tribunal recommended that completely damaged houses would result in compensation of 250 million while those that were severely and moderately damaged would receive 1 million and 250000 each.  Oil India Limited had filed objections to the orders for compensation in the National Green Tribunal, but the Tribunal dismissed their objections on 8 August 2020. OIL announced that they will give 30,000 as compensation to all the families were affected.It’s sure that the affected families will get compensation but the Government and the Company itself should be aware of such incidents and be sure that such dangerous incidents will never happen again for which the general people will have to face lots of problems, most importantly their own home. 

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