NGT Admits Appeal Challenging Approval Granted For Drilling In Dibru Saikhowa National Park, Assam

The National Green Tribunal on 20-7-2020 directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the Assam State Biodiversity Board and OIL India ltd to respond on the question as to how environmental clearance to the proposed drilling of 7 wells in the Dibru Saikhowa National Park was permitted by the MoEF&CC without a Biodiversity Impact Assessment as mandated by the Supreme Court in 2017. As per the order of the Supreme Court, the Assam State Biodiversity Board was required to conduct a Biodiversity Impact Assessment before drilling could be permitted in the National Park. The petitioner before the NGT: Bimal Gogoi and Mridu Pukhan contended that as per their information no such study has been conducted by the State Biodiversity Board. In addition, the Petitioners contended that the Environment Ministry illegally exempted the project from the requirement of public consultation including public hearing without the mandatory report from the Assam State Pollution Control Board. According to the Petitioner, the EIA Notification mandates that a public hearing can be exempted only based on the report of the State Pollution Control Board. The petitioners submitted that no such report was submitted by the Pollution Control Board. In the instant case, the expert committee of the MoEF&CC concluded that if public hearing is conducted it will be the ‘death knell’ for the project and that in view of national interest, the public consultation process should be excluded.

The National Green Tribunal, Eastern Zone Bench comprising of Justice S.P Wangdi and Expert Member Nagin Nanda also took note of the petitioners contention the Environment Impact Assessment was done based on data from the US only and came to the conclusion that the threat from blow out can be termed as ‘negligible’.

The NGT directed the Environment Ministry and the State Pollution Control Board to file a Report on the issues raised in the Appeal.

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