Assam villagers demand Brahmaputra River protection

Vol 12, PW 19 (26 Feb 09) People & Policy

Assam in northeast India is a difficult place to work in at the best of times.

Mountainous, forested terrain and poor transport services, coupled with armed separatist militancy discourage most but the very brave. So it’s no surprise to hear that Oil India is facing an unusual problem at one of its fields.

PETROWATCH learns that for the past decade Oil India has not produced a single drop of oil from three producing wells in the Rohmaria region of the state. More, plans to drill seven new wells are gathering dust.

Why Angry villagers are carrying out an â€کeconomic blockade’ over the state government’s failure to protect their land from erosion by the mighty Brahmaputra River, which flows into the state from its source in Tibet. Why target Oil India when local authorities are at fault “We have nothing against Oil India but we know the head will turn (towards us) only if we twist the ear,â€‌ Ghanen Gogoi, leader of the Rohmaria anti-Erosion Committee says.

Gogoi claims that in the last two decades the Brahmaputra River has washed away 38 villages. “The government has done nothing to stop this deadly erosion so we decided to subject Oil India to an economic blockade.

â€‌ In 1999, Rohmaria villagers forced Oil India to stop production from the three wells, which have lain idle ever since. Taken aback, Oil India tried persuasion but the villagers refused to give in.

Then, Oil India engineers used pipes salvaged from the scrap heap to put together 34 â€کdampeners’ at regular intervals to calm the river’s fury. This technique was successful but villagers want at least 200 â€کdampeners’ installed along the 9-km-long stretch of Rohmaria worst hit.

Oil India says it does not have enough pipes for 200 â€کdampeners’ but the villagers insist they will relent only after the whole area is protected against the river.

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