An oil well operated by Oil India Limited (OIL) at Baghjan in Tinsukia district caught fire on June 9, 2020, following a blast in the oil field. The well had been experiencing a blowout since May 27. According to a news article, in 90 per cent of global cases, human error has been responsible for such blowouts, with equipment failure accounting for just 10 per cent of the cases. The Baghjan oil field borders the Maguri Motapung Beel (wetland), a biodiversity hotspot. The Beel is home to several ethnic communities, almost all of whom depend on the wetland for their living. The Beel has been highly contaminated with oil spillage and also due to the condensed gas settling down. According to a preliminary report of the Committee of Experts constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), high mortality has been reported among fishes, insects, herpetofauna and insects, including a decline of the Gangetic River Dolphin population in the area. Fish have died in huge numbers in the Beel as floodwaters turned acidic after mixing with the condensate, a form of crude that has been spewing from the oil well since May 27. The residents of Notun Gaon, a village close to the oil well, alleged that they were neglected by the authorities and did not benefit from any relief plan, be it provision of shelter, relief material or compensation for which they had also protested on the Kaliapani bridge many times. In response to this, OIL authorities stated that Notun Gaon is not eligible for compensation as there is "no damage as such". Suffering for more than a month of demanding compensation, an agitated resident of Baghjan village, 45-year-old Sukleswar Neog, committed suicide by consuming poison on July 18. His entire plot of land was damaged from the blowout. This intensified ongoing protests by the local residents, demanding compensation and accountability. The government then gave them a one-time compensation of INR 25,000-30,000 per family after continuous protests and road blockades. The latest road blockade was organised on September 18. Activist Bonani Kakkar filed a petition in June in the NGT, in which he alleged that OIL authorities failed to prevent the blowout at the site. The petitioner told the court that the blowout left a gas residue, which is toxic for land and vegetation. He also claimed that the blowout endangered lives and occupations. In June 2020, the NGT directed OIL to pay an interim fine of INR 25 crore for the damage caused to public health and wildlife due to the fire at the oil well. A month later, two conservationists Bimal Gogoi and Mridu Paban Phukon – also filed a petition in the NGT claiming that environmental clearance for the oil well was accorded to OIL in violation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006. The NGT also asked the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to respond within six weeks to a plea filed by Paban challenging its approval to OILs proposed onshore oil and gas development drilling and production projects in Mechaki area in Tinsukia. After all the traditional methods of capping the well went futile, the Assam government announced on September 2 about killing the well with the support of an expert team from Canada. The government estimated the process to take six to eight weeks. On November 15, OIL announced that the fire in Baghjan was doused and the blowout killed.
Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change; Pollution Control Board, Assam; Tinsukia District Administration, State Forest Department (concerned with Mahguri Beel and Dibru Saikhowa National park loss)
Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:
John Energy Ltd
Legislations Involved in the Conflict:
Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:
Name(s) of Court(s)
National Green Tribunal; Supreme Court of India
43/2020/EZ; T.N. Godavaraman v. Union of India (I.A. 3934 in W.P (C) 202 of 1995)
Nature of Protest
Complaints, petitions, memorandums to officials , Protests/marches
Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:
Reported Details of the Violation:
Date of Violation
Location of Violation
Has the Conflict Ended?
When did it end?
Why did the conflict end?