Gauhati HC maintains hydrocarbon exploration within the Dibru-Saikhowa national park
On Monday, the Gauhati peak was left with the hydrocarbon exploration permit granted to Oil India Limited (OIL) at seven locations within the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (DSNP) in Assam.
A divisional court consisting of (acting) Chief Justice N Kotishwar Singh and Justice Manish Choudhury approved the order while hearing a petition from Mrinmoy Khataniar and Amar Jyoti Deka.
The petitioners had requested a suspension of the permit granted to OIL by the Center in May this year to drill for hydrocarbons in seven locations in DSNP.
After hearing the arguments of defenders Debajit Kumar Das, RS Choudhury and H Betala, who represented the petitioners, the divisional court suspended the environmental authorization for failure to comply with a 2017 Supreme Court order requiring OIL to conduct a impact assessment study on biodiversity.
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In an affidavit filed last month, OIL had stated that a public consultation for the environmental clearance or biodiversity impact assessment for the proposed oil and natural gas drilling at DSNP had not yet been conducted.
The company said the existing rules do not require it to carry out public consultations and emphasized that to date no work has started on oil and gas exploration and extraction.
The company maintained that a biodiversity study of the proposed site has not yet been carried out, but is committed to the commitment presented to the Supreme Court regarding the completion of such study prior to the start of the drilling operation.
Dibru-Saikhowa, with an area of 340 km2, is one of the five national parks of Assam. The park, which is also a biosphere reserve, is home to 36 species of mammals, including tigers, Ganges dolphins and wild horses, and 382 species of birds.
OIL had argued that the company will not operate within the national park and that the drilling will not have any impact on the area, since the operation would be carried out through a technique called extended reach drilling (ERD) that would not have any impact on the DSNP surface area. .