Assam fire: MB Lal Committee recommendations not implemented for a decade

One of the recommendations, of building emergency response centres to handle major oil fires was to be completed in 2014

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Friday 12 June 2020
Two firefighters died on June 9, 2020, while trying to control the blaze at the Baghjan 5 well in Assam. Photo: Twitter__

Emergency Response Centres (ERCs) to handle major oil fires in the fastest way possible are yet to be set up in India, more than a decade after they were recommended by the MB Lal Committee.

This is according to the last report of the Parliamentary panel on Petroleum and Natural Gas that was tabled in the Lok Sabha in January 2019.  

The ERCs were supposed to be completed in 2014. But six years later, even after approval of the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the recommendation is still pending.

“It appears that the oil industry is waiting for another major disaster to happen to get on its feet,” the panel had said.

An ERC would take 3-4 years to be set up and any incident during the intervening period might cause huge losses, it had further noted.

Till ERCs are set up, oil marketing companies (OMCs) including Indian Oil Corp Ltd (IOCL), Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd and Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) should appoint an experienced agency on a temporary basis.

The agency should be able to provide 24X7 emergency fire-fighting services, with advanced equipment.

The MB Lal committee was constituted following a fire incident in October 2009 at the IOCL terminal at Jaipur. It had nearly 118 recommendations with regard to safety guidelines to be followed by oil companies at their installations.

All recommendations of the committee approved by the petroleum ministry were supposed to be implemented immediately.

According to the ministry, at least 94 per cent of the recommendations made by the MB Lal committee have been implemented.

However, the facts tell a different story.

Despite such recommendations in place, fire incidents such as blasts at the GAIL pipeline at Nagaram in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari on June 27, 2014, the BPCL tank farm at Butcher Island near Mumbai on October 6, 2017 and the fire incident at Uran had occurred at oil installations at regular intervals.

The natural gas well at Baghjan belonging to Oil India Ltd (OIL) in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district that had been leaking gas since May 27, caught fire on June 9, 2020. According to OIL, the fire will now take at least four more weeks to control.

According to the Oil Industry Safety Directorate, eight accidents in oil and gas installations took place between April and June 1, 2020.

Such accidents are a grave reminder of the inadequate safety measures and the lackadaisical implementation of safety standards at oil and gas installations in the country

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