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Oil explosion in Baghjan, Tinsukia, Assam, India

In May 2020, an oil and gas leak turned into fire close to a national park and wetland causing death and destruction of people, nature and culture.


On 27 May 2020, in Oil India Limited’s (OIL) Baghjan Oil field operated by John Energy Pvt. Ltd., an oil and gas leak occurred due to falling pressure systems in the oil well [1]. It continued to leak uncontrollably for over 12 days, and on 9 June 2020, the oil well caught fire [2]. The massive inferno at the well, with thick black smoke moving up quite a few meters high, was seen from a distance of more than 30 kilometers from the site [6]. The fire spread rapidly, and along with destroying a lot of flora and fauna, also resulted in the death of two employees of OIL – Durlov Gogoi and Tikheswar Gohain [3].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Oil explosion in Baghjan, Tinsukia, Assam, India
State or province:Assam
Location of conflict:Tinsukia
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Wetlands and coastal zone management
Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Following the discovery of oil and gas in Baghjan area (2003) by Oil India Limited, extensive geoscientific works have been carried out through 3D seismic survey. Around 75 of Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) area was converted into Baghjan Mining Lease (ML) and OIL has so far drilled 19 wells.

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:9,000-10,000
Start of the conflict:27/05/2020
Company names or state enterprises:Oil India Ltd. from India
John Energy Pvt Ltd. from India - Operator
Relevant government actors:Assam State Government, Ministry of Industry and Commerce
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:All Assam Students Union (AASU)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
Informal workers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Fires, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Genetic contamination, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsEutrophication
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases, Deaths
Potential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsSkin diseases, water borne diseases, potentially larger risk to Covid-19 due to relocation of 7000 people to relief camps with no physical distancing and unhygienic conditions.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Locals claim that the fire could have been prevented if the leak was contained correctly.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

17. Dolly Kikon. 2019. Living with oil and coal: resource politics and militarisation in Northeast India. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
[click to view]

5. Anupam Chakravartty. When Oil India Blowout Turned into an Inferno. Stories Asia.
[click to view]

11. Utpal Parashar. Concerns over Oil India´s bid to drill for hydrocarbons in Assam national park. 21 May 2020. Hindustan Times.
[click to view]

12. Priya Ranganathan. Near the Baghjan Blowout, Assam´s critical wetland hábitat is burining. 11 June 2020. The Wire Science.
[click to view]

13. Shilpi Shikha Phukan. In Tinsukia´s relief camps, woeful tales of lives wrecked by an oil fire that followed a flood. 15 June 2020. Scroll.
[click to view]

7. Hemanta Kumar Nath. Assam: Unexplained tremors after Baghjan oil well fire force over 1,000 people to leave homes. 13 June 2020. India Today
[click to view]

8. Tora Agarwala. Oil well blowout near Assam national park yet to be controlled; environmentalists fear adverse impact. 30 May 2020. Indian Express.
[click to view]

9. Anupam Chakravartty and Dhruba Dutta. Oil Well Blowout Threatens National park in Assam, India. Stories Asia.
[click to view]

2. Anupam Chakravartty. Leaking Oil India well that caught fire yesterday should have been flagged earlier. Down to Earth. 9 June 2020.
[click to view]

10. Economic Times. Oil India to drull in Dibru- Saikhowa National Park from outside. 21 May 2020.
[click to view]

3. Prabin Kalita. Two die in fire at gas well in Assam´s Tinsukia. Times of India. 10 June 2020.
[click to view]

4. Hemanta Kumar Nath. Assam´s Baghjan blowout: ONGC expert explains why it will take another 25 days to fix leak. India Today. 12 June 2020.
[click to view]

6. Press Trust of India. Environmentalists Fear Long-Term Impact Of Oil Well Fire On Assam Biodiversity. 12 June 2020. NDTV
[click to view]

14. News18. Protest erupt as Assam Minister tries to downplay OIL´s Baghjan Gas Well Tragedy. 11 June 2020.
[click to view]

15. Hannah Ellis-Petersen. Assam oil well still leaking gas one week after blowout. The Guardian. 2 June 2020.
[click to view]

1. Tora, Agarwala. Assam natural gas leak: Villagers carry out protest demanding compensation, protection of national park. 6 June 2020, Indian Express.
[click to view]

16. Dolly Kikon. 2020. Assam, oil, and a crude future. The India Forum. August 7, 2020.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Prag News coverage of the oil and gas leak in Assamese.
[click to view]

An Oil Well Blowout Threatens National Park in Assam, India
[click to view]

The Quint coverage of the Major Fire at Assam's Baghjan Oil Well Engulfs Nearby Villages, Destroys Houses, Flora and Fauna
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Anwesha Borthakur and Brototi Roy
Last update08/08/2020
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