The Assam Pollution Control Board (PCB) has issued a closure notice to the Oil India Limited to shut down all its wells in Baghjan - the site of the gas well fire accident. The pollution body, which did an initial probe into the environmental hazards of the incident, has said that the company has been operating these oil wells without "proper consent and clearance" of the board.
The development comes even as Baghjan's gas well number 5 in Tinsukia district of Assam continues to be on fire.
In the order, the PCB has stated that the Baghjan oil field was being operated without its "consent to establish and operate" permission.
The board had issued a notice to the Oil India limited on June 10 over the blowout incident and had asked it to furnish a reply within seven days. The company, however, asked for more time to reply, following which the pollution control body has now issued the closure notice.
There are 21 active wells of the Oil India Limited in Baghjan and its adjoining areas.
"It is mandatory to obtain prior permission / clearance from MoEF&CC as well as state PCB for production, drilling, pumping of crude oil and laying pipeline activities as per EIA notification, 2006 and various provisions under the Section 25/26 of the Water (Prevention of Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Section 21 of the Air (Prevention of Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Authorization under the Hazardous & other waste (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016 as amended upto date," the PCB order further stated.
Meanwhile, the Oil India Limited sources have confirmed the receipt of the notice and hinted that the company will take a legal recourse challenging the order and will urge for a stay on it.
Earlier last month, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change or MoEF&CC gave environmental clearances to seven more proposed oil well using the extender reach drilling (ERD) at seven locations under Dibru Saikhowa National Park. The decision had drawn sharp reactions from environmentalists.
On May 27, a blowout happened in one of the wells in the Baghjan area and gas and oil condensate leaked for 13 days before the well caught fire on June 9, which soon after spread to the neighbouring villages.
The gas leak and fire had caused damage to the flora, fauna and aquatic life of the eco-sensitive Dibru Saikhowa National Park and the Buguri Motapung wetlands.
Over 10 thousands people have been displaced and the tea gardens of small tea growers have been damaged as a consequence of the accident at the oil well.