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Assam gas leak: PM Modi reviews situation, assures support

Written by Tora Agarwala
| Guwahati |

Published: June 18, 2020 10:48:35 pm

The review meeting was attended by Home Minister Amit Shah, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, Assam Chief Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal (Source: Twitter/sarbanandsonwal)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced that the Centre was “fully committed to providing support and relief and rehabilitation to the affected families” of the Baghjan fire tragedy of Assam.

PM Modi’s statement came after he chaired a video conference meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority earlier on Thursday to review the situation in Upper Assam’s Baghjan gas well, which caught fire on June 9. Two firefighters had died in the inferno.

“Reviewed the situation in the wake of the Baghjan fire tragedy in Assam. Centre and state government are working to ensure proper relief and rehabilitation to those affected” tweeted PM Modi on Thursday night.

On May 27, the Oil India Limited-owned Baghjan 5 gas well in Assam’s Tinsukia district, experienced a blowout (or a sudden, uncontrolled release of natural gas) — threatening thousands who lived in the vicinity as well as the rich biodiversity of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and the Maguri-Motapung wetland located close by.

On June 9, the well caught fire complicating matters further. As per the Tinsukia district administration, nearly 11,000 displaced people are currently in 12 relief camps in the area. Both the Centre and the State governments have instituted inquiry committees to probe the incident. A sum of Rs 30,000 has been sanctioned to 1,610 families identified by the Tinsukia district administration as an immediate relief measure.

As per a release on the official website of the Prime Minister, he assured “the people of Assam through Chief Minister Assam that Government of India is fully committed to providing support and relief & rehabilitation to the affected families and is standing with the State Government in this difficult time due to the unfortunate incident that has taken place.”

The review meeting was also attended by Home Minister Amit Shah, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, Assam Chief Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, among other Union Ministers and senior officers of Government of India.

A release from the Chief Minister Sonowal’s office said that PM Modi expressed “solidarity with the affected families” and that all “necessary steps for compensation, relief and rehabilitation” would be taken.

In the video conference, the Petroleum ministry made a presentation of the blow out incident and steps taken by the ministry. While Union Minister Pradhan briefed PM Modi about various steps taken by his ministry, CM Sonowal apprised him about the latest developments and requested him to “upgrade the Petroleum Technology Department of Dibrugarh University so that it can groom experts locally who could tackle incidents of this kind successfully.”

PM Modi told the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry that “this incident should be studied and documented so that learnings become useful in future.” “ Further capacities and expertise should be developed within our own organizations to avoid such mishaps in future and deal with such calamities in case they occur,” the release said.

To cap the Baghjan blowout, OIL has reached out to foreign experts from Singapore-based firm Alert. As per a statement by OIL on Thursday, operations were on to cap the well, with the assistance of the Indian Army for some construction activities related to the operations.

Four studies have been undertaken by different organisations to assess the impact on the surroundings: an Environment Impact Assessment study by the NABET accredited consultant ERM India Pvt. Ltd, two The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) studies on air quality and noise level and bioremediation of sludge, and a seismological study by the North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST), Jorhat, Assam to look into the frequent tremors being felt in the area post the blowout.

Meanwhile various protests in oil installations in different parts of the state have led OIL to suffer a cumulative production loss of 6538 MT Crude oil, 8.61 MMSCM of natural gas. As per the release by PM Modi, the operations at the well were “being executed as per schedule” and the blowout is proposed to be capped on July 7, after taking all necessary safety precautions.

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