Gauhati High Court has stayed the environmental clearance accorded to energy major Oil India Limited for exploration and drilling for hydrocarbons at seven locations in Dibru Saikhowa National Park spread over Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts in Upper Assam.
Acting on a public interest litigation plea filed by advocate Mrinmoy Khataniar and mountaineer Amarjyoti Deka, a bench comprising high court Chief Justice (acting) N. Kotiswar Singh and Justice Manish Choudhury on Monday stayed the environmental clearance accorded on May 11. D. Das, R.S. Chowdhury and H. Betala represented the petitioners.
Khataniar told The Telegraph that the court ordered a stay on the environmental clearance for non-compliance of a September 7, 2017, Supreme Court order which required Oil India to conduct a biodiversity impact assessment study.
He also said the high court after being prima facie satisfied that Oil India had failed to carry out the apex court order also stayed the exploration and drilling for seven hydrocarbon projects in the Dibru Saikhowa National Park.
The park is located close to the Baghjan Oil India well which suffered a blowout in May, posing a threat to the local ecology, including the park which is known for its white-winged wood duck, tiger, feral horses and capped langur. The well, located around 530km east of Guwahati, was capped last month and subsequently abandoned on December 3.
An Oil India official told this newspaper that the company stands committed to carrying out the biodiversity study before carrying out ERD (extended reach drilling) operations at seven locations. “So far we have not carried out any activity. We are in touch with the state biodiversity board which will conduct the study for us,” he said.
Oil India will be using the ERD technology by which they will drill seven wells and reach the target depth underneath the park without entering the eco-sensitive zone, the official said.