PEOPLE in five villages that surround the Chhatak Gas Field at Tengratila in Sunamganj living in constant fear of another blowout in the gas field, where two blowouts took place on January 7 and June 24, 2005, warrant a serious attention of the relevant authorities. Ponds, tube wells and cracks in the soil within a kilometre of the site of the twin explosions incessantly emits, as New Age reported on Saturday, natural gas polluting the environment. Moreover, the explosions left a huge adverse impact on the environment and ecology, because of which people there still contract various diseases. Meanwhile, Niko Resources Ltd, the Canadian contractor that explored the gas field, accused of pursuing a flawed mechanism in the exploration that caused the blowouts, is yet to be made to pay proper compensation for the damage that involved the waste of natural wealth and the enormously negative impact on biodiversity. It is important to note that the Sylhet region, including Sunamganj, having hills and haors, is regarded as the treasure trove of natural resources such as gas.
There are reasons to believe that as the incumbents, like their predecessors, are allegedly biased towards international oil companies for different reasons, including their indifference to national interest, the Canadian oil giant has so far been able to evade punishment for the offence it committed in Tengratila. Besides, the fact that the issue lost the media attention once the public outcry over the Tengratila blowouts died down a few months after the devastation had taken place has also contributed to the situation. One can recall here that the Magurchhara gas field blowout in Moulvibazar in June 1997 had almost a similar situation as the US contractor responsible for the loss of gas and damage to biodiversity because of the explosion had been allowed to leave the country safely after handing over all its assets here to another US oil giant. The government lodged a number of cases against the contractor with national and international courts in the Tengratila case but the ground reality is that the government is allegedly anything but serious about realising proper damages from the contractor.
In any case, it is heartening that local people at Tengratila are still raising their voice about the issue as leaders of Tengratila Dabi Aday Sangram Parishad, a local civic platform set up after the blowouts, have already called for effective steps to realise proper compensation from Niko. They also demanded an early move to resume gas exploration from the field to stop the ongoing leakage. It is expected that the government will positively respond to the demands without delay. Conscious people also need to mount pressure on the government in this matter.
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