Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati

Representational Image.(File photo)



The Gauhati high on Monday stayed hydrocarbon exploration permission given to Oil India Limited (OIL) at seven locations inside the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (DSNP) in Assam.

A division bench comprising chief justice (acting) N Kotishwar Singh and justice Manish Choudhury passed the order while hearing a petition by Mrinmoy Khataniar and Amar Jyoti Deka.

The petitioners had sought a stay on permission granted to OIL by the Centre in May this year to drill for hydrocarbons at seven locations in DSNP.

After hearing arguments by advocates Debajit Kumar Das, RS Choudhury and H Betala who represented the petitioners, the division bench stayed the environmental clearance for non-compliance of a Supreme Court order of 2017 which required OIL to conduct biodiversity impact assessment study.

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In an affidavit filed last month, OIL had stated that no public consultation for environmental clearance or biodiversity impact assessment has been done yet for proposed drilling for oil and natural gas in DSNP.

The company maintained that existing rules don’t require it to conduct public consultation and stressed not work on oil and gas exploration and extraction has started till date.

The company maintained that no biodiversity study of the proposed site has been done yet, but it is committed to the undertaking submitted before Supreme Court with regard to conducting such a study prior to the start of the drilling operation.

Spread over 340sq km, Dibru-Saikhowa is one of the five national parks in Assam. The park, which is also a biosphere reserve, is home to 36 mammal species including tiger, Gangetic dolphin and feral horses and 382 bird species.

OIL had maintained that the company won’t operate inside the national park and the drilling will have no impact on the area as operation would be conducted through a technique called extended reach drilling (ERD) which would have no impact on the surface area of DSNP.