Posted on
12 June 2020

WWF India is deeply disturbed at the blowout that occurred in the oil well, Baghjan-5, under the Baghjan oilfield of Oil India Limited in Tinsukia District of Assam on 27th May 2020 and expresses grave concern about the damage caused by it to the environment and people. This oilfield is located approximately 1km from the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, a safe haven of rare and threatened species and 1.5km from the Maguri Motapung Beel, a valuable wetland and an Important Bird Area. Wildlife in the area has been exposed to danger and instances of carcasses of endangered Gangetic dolphins, India’s National Aquatic Animal, as well as those of rare birds with feathers soaked in oil and other animals have been recovered. 
As the fires from the blowout continue, it has currently engulfed surrounding areas. The wind direction has also accelerated the heat and sound generated from the fire towards the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri Motapung Beel, putting wildlife and their habitats under severe threat.  As of 11th June, around 7,500 affected families have also been evacuated to nearby relief camps. People from neighbouring villages are also complaining of respiratory complications.
WWF India urges the Assam Government to initiate immediate steps to restore the habitats in and around the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri Motapung Beel. We understand that the Department of Environment & Forests, Government of Assam has constituted a committee to carry out an in-depth assessment of impacts on biodiversity of the area. Efforts are also on to try and cap the burning well, which may take up to four weeks, according to experts. WWF India requests the Government that relevant provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 must be invoked to take action against the company(ies) responsible for the irreparable damage to the environment and people. It is also imperative to ensure that no further damage is caused to the area and no such incidents are repeated in the future.
With the Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park notified to an extent of 0 (zero) kilometre to 8.7 kilometres, this incident has once again proven the imminent danger of having a zero kilometre ESZ around Protected Areas (PAs). This accident and its catastrophic impact on the biodiversity of the area, affecting ecosystem services and related livelihoods of people, reinforces the need to have carefully considered demarcations of ESZ around PAs as required under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986.

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