No public consultations were held before granting environmental clearance for the proposed drilling operations inside Assam’s Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Oil India Limited (OIL) said in an affidavit filed in the Gauhati high court on Tuesday. OIL maintained that existing rules do not require it to conduct public consultations and added that oil and gas exploration and extraction has not started yet. It added that no biodiversity study of the proposed site has been done yet. OIL said it is committed to undertaking the study.
The affidavit was filed in response to a petition filed in the court seeking a stay on permission granted to OIL in May to drill for hydrocarbons at seven locations inside the Park.In a separate affidavit, the Assam forest department said the Assam State Biodiversity Board (ASBB) has not conducted any biodiversity impact assessment study at the site.
The affidavit said ASBB received a request from OIL in August this year to conduct a biodiversity impact assessment study, but it could not be conducted due to the blowout at a natural gas well of OIL at Baghjan near the Park.
The forest department affidavit maintained that no drilling has been carried out inside the Park’s notified boundary.Spread over 340 sq km, Dibru-Saikhowa is also a biosphere reserve and home to 36 mammal species including tiger, Gangetic dolphin, and feral horses.OIL has said the drilling will be conducted through a technique called extended reach which would have no impact on the Park’s surface area.