Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati

OIL had maintained that the company won’t operate inside the national park.(PTI file photo. Representative image)



The Gauhati high court on Monday stayed approval given to Oil India Limited (OIL) to explore hydrocarbons 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 plea by petitioners Mrinmoy Khataniar and Amar Jyoti Deka, who had sought the stay on permission given to OIL by the Centre in May 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 with a Supreme Court order of 2017 which required OIL to conduct a biodiversity impact assessment study.

The decision is another setback to OIL, which this month abandoned a well at Baghjan in Assam, seven months after it blew out and 17 days after the blaze it caused was doused.The company faced a loss in production and a backlash from local residents over its handling of the blowout. As the well was located close to DSNP and the Maguri Motapung Wetland, the blowout and fire also raised concerns of damage to ecology.

In an affidavit filed last month, OIL had stated that no public consultation for environmental clearance or biodiversity impact assessment had been done yet for proposed drilling for oil and natural gas in DSNP. The company maintained that existing rules do not require it to conduct public consultation and stressed that no work on oil and gas exploration and extraction had started till date.

OIL said it was committed to the undertaking submitted before the apex court with regard to conducting a biodiversity study prior to the start of drilling. OIL had maintained that the company won’t operate inside the national park.