Guwahati: A massive fire has broken out at the natural-gas producing well of Oil India Limited (OIL) in upper Assam’s Tinsukia district. This well for the last two weeks have been leaking gas.
Keeping a close watch
Sources informed that the fire broke out Tuesday afternoon of the leaking well. Huge plumes of smoke can be seen coming out of the well causing concern in adjoining areas. People are apprehensive that the fire may spread so the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been deployed in the locality. They are keeping a close watch on the situation. The leaking well has also become a concern for environmentalists.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has spoken to Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan after the fire started. Sonowal gave Pradhan him the latest update about the fire situation. It should be stated here that ‘Well Killing’ experts were flown in Monday from Singapore. They are trying to control the fire and prevent further leak. But till now the efforts have not paid off.
Authorities have also ordered a probe into the deaths of five people following the uncontrollable gas leak. They announced the investigation as experts arrived to try and stem the blowout near popular ecotourism spots.
The gas well blew out May 27. Since then five people from the areas surrounding the oil and gas field have died. The district administration said a preliminary investigation suggested the villagers died of natural causes. However, locals are not ready to buy that story. So far 2,500 people have been evacuated from adjoining areas.
According to OIL, the well was producing 100,000 standard cubic metres per day (SCMD) of gas from a depth of 3,870 metres (4,234 yards) before the blowout. OIL was also pumping huge amount of water to prevent the gas from catching fire. But now it seems that their efforts have failed.
Locals and environmentalists are increasingly worried about the impact of the gas leakage. Just one kilometre from the oil field is Maguri-Motapung wetlands, an ecotourism site. State-owned sanctuary ‘Dibru Saikhowa National Park’ — a biodiverse area renowned for migratory birds – is about 2.5 kilometres away.
Assam Pollution Control Board chairman, Y Suryanarayana has said the gas is spreading to a radius of five kilometres. . The condensate is ‘mostly falling on bamboo, tea gardens, banana trees and betel nut trees’. He said that these plants will suffer definitely because of the condensate.
Local guide and wildlife photographer Binanda Hatiboruah has said the condensate is covering water bodies. In the process it is killing grasslands close to the incident site.
“We have already seen birds and other species suffering,” Hatiboruah was quoted as saying by an international website. “Many birds have left their nests. The green has become brown now,” he added.
One of the villagers who was evacuated, 45-year-old Binita Deka said that locals were afraid their lives were ‘in danger’. “The fishes in the water bodies are dying,” she said.
Assam Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said his government was committed to protecting the surrounding ecosystems. “The forest department has already formed an expert committee to assess the damage it may cause to the environment. I can assure that no compromise will be made for safeguarding nature and wildlife,” Suklabaidya told the same website.