NEW DELHI, Aug 1 - The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has reported that the Baghjan well blowout has harmed the endangered Gangetic dolphins and the impact of the uncontrolled oil and gas emissions will have long-term impact due to contamination of groundwater.
The WII has called for an assessment of the cumulative impact of the gas wells. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has sent the WII’s findings to the Assam government to begin restoration work.
In its report to the Centre, the WII said a dolphin was found dead from poisoning from the oil spill. The location of the blowout near Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, the Maguri-Motapung wetlands, are home to endangered hoolock gibbons and Gangetic dolphins.
The WII report said oil wells in and around the national park will be detrimental to the region’s unique ecosystem and that it is also extremely vulnerable to earthquakes.
The Ministry’s expert appraisal committee had recommended environmental clearance for drilling and testing of hydrocarbons at seven locations under the national park.
“Given the potential of oil blowout and oil spill disaster like this... such oil wells in the vicinity of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and important bird area complex... will be detrimental to the conservation value of this unique ecosystem,” the report said.
The report said richness in bird species was found to increase with an increase in distance from the site, possibly due to the oil spill and intense noise from the blowout. The decline in bird species was highest in grasslands (59 per cent) and wetlands (85 per cent) compared to areas located away from the site, it added.
The report said fish species have also declined in wetlands and river tributaries, where dissolved oxygen levels have fallen due to the oil spill. The concentration of toxic polyaromatic hydrocarbons in fish samples from the wetland was found to be 10-100 folds higher than normal.
The report said there has been a massive decrease in the Gangetic Dolphin presence in Lohit, Dibru, and Maguri-Motapung after the blowout. It added that the loud noise due to the blowout can be heard as far as 12 km and beyond, making the area extremely unhealthy for humans, animals, and birds.
The report said the 65-70 hectare burnt out area mapped includes crop fields, grasslands, and swamps. “There was a visible oil spill on June 16, downstream of the well.”