TINSUKIA: The Justice BP Katakey committee presenting an interim report on 'Damage Assessment & Restoration Plan of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri Motapung Wetland' to the Supreme Court recommending OIL (Oil India Ltd) to deposit Rs 2,500 crore may deal a blow to the oil giant.
Several researchers, including university experts, environmental activists and local people oppose restoration plans as seven flood pulses during the past monsoon naturally restored a major part of the affected area, and the leftover area is likely to be restored naturally in another couple of years where vegetation has already sprung up.
Aggrieved local environmental groups, stakeholders and researchers say that the Justice Katakey report did not figure any reference of their views that were put forward on October 4 (webinar) and October 8 at the Tinsukia DC office, even as the report was presented by the committee to the Supreme Court on October 20, 2021.
Surprisingly, there was no mention of the Tinsukia public hearing held on October 8. A senior environmentalist who attended the November 19 committee meeting in Guwahati told this correspondent that it was a mere confidence-building exercise to make the proposal through.
According to environmentalists, the Justice Katakey Committee presented the interim report allegedly based on the inputs from MK Yadava's (Additional PCCF WL), Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and other findings. Yadava, who headed two crucial inquiry committees in the aftermath of the blowout, did not submit the reports on time which were much needed then as reflected in one of Justice Katakey's reports to the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Instead, according to a source, Yadava presented a PPP presentation at Cotton University recently with a balance sheet and budgetary proposal, much before his official submission. He also uploaded it in the public domain (AMTRON website).
Highly placed sources said that Yadava's report is yet to be accepted officially by the Assam Government. The committee quoted in its report that various committees appointed for the purpose submitted their investigation covering the period up to July 2020. It was widely reported then that the team of 'experts' engaged by MK Yadava in the blowout area carried out a superficial survey as most of them were field workers and activists and not researchers. Proper field methodologies were not adhered to. Yadava even quoted in his presentation that some information was 'theorized' and 'extrapolated'. An IICER West Bengal-based scientist, who claimed to have visited Baghjan during the blowout, declined to furnish any information pertaining to his study.
Tridiv Hazarika, OIL's DGM (CSR & CC), told media persons that the amount suggested by the Justice Katakey Committee is an interim one and without any breakup may increase after the final assessment. Though he refrained from commenting further on the report, he said the proposed quantum of 'fine' levied by the committee on OIL, which has already paid Rs 103 crore as compensation, would be hard to bear. He said that OIL was fully aware of the leftover oil spill and bio-remediation had already been started, but it was delayed as local people prevented OIL from carrying out any activity after the blowout for almost a year.