TINSUKIA: The preliminary report of the Committee of Experts headed by Justice (retd) BP Katakey, which was submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on July 24 on the Baghjan oil blowout issue, led to serious confusion and discontentment among the affected families on either side of Maguri-Motapung Wetland.
Though the report mentioned in Appendix G in pages 282-395 that a total of 1,046 families of greater Baghjan area and 637 families in Nutan Gaon area had been affected and one-time compensation be awarded, a sizeable number of families have been left out in both areas even as Tinsukia district administration is yet complete its damage assessment. Such incomplete list is likely to pose problems for both the district administration and as well as for OIL.
Following publication of the report, apprehension ran high among the families of Badarkhati, Digoltarang and several others under Doomdooma Revenue Circle who either moved out of the relief camps due to ghetto-like situation there or returned to their respective partially damaged homes or in some rented accommodation in Doomdooma and Rupai, that they had been deprived of compensation owing to their absence in the camp. These people are now contemplating to launch fresh agitation as reflected in the signed statement issued to the press. They even demanded the daily ration amount of Rs 500 to be credited to their respective accounts.
The picture on the other side of Maguri Beel is fairly complex. Though 637 families of Nutan Gaon have been listed in the report, many more families were omitted from the list as claimed by local activists. Surprisingly, the government assessment team was forced allegedly by local leaders, student bodies and politicians to undertake survey in newer areas, including peripheral tea gardens afresh. An official source said that during surprise check at night, it came to fore that a number of inmates had left and surfaced again in the morning to record their presence. Thus, it became very difficult to count the number of affected inmates in the true sense.
Besides this aspect, the report also dwelt at length on the loss of biodiversity due to oil spill. Though it contained several checklists of flora and fauna from previous database, including from present survey, nowhere it stated as to who carried out the survey. Environmentalists here have raised doubts about the authenticity of the check lists as several ambiguities surfaced in the lists. While Wildlife Institute of India (WII) carried out detailed survey and analysis and recorded extensive high mortality among fishes, insects, herpetofauna, including presence of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH), a potent carcinogen which was cited in the report, what intrigued environmentalists was that the committee in its report claimed as 'recorded by us' and enclosed in Appendix 7,8,9,10 and 11, cited presence of 41 species of butterfly, 28 species of birds each in grassland and wetland, 13 species of dragon flies, besides snakes (11), amphibians (17) and 35 herpetofauna when butterflies are considered to be an indicator of pollution.
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