Seismic work suspended in Brahmaputra, India | WWF

Seismic work suspended in Brahmaputra, India

Posted on 03 November 2006    
Plataniste or Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica), Karnaphuli river, Bangladesh.
© WWF / François Xavier PELLETIER

New Delhi, India - WWF-India welcomes the decision to suspend seismic work in Brahmaputra after a recent public hearing where environmental organizations voiced their concerns. The public hearing on the much-debated Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by Guwahati University was organized by Oil India Limited (OIL) which wants to drill Brahmaputra for oil. 

Long deliberations were witnessed that highlighted gaps found in the Executive Summary of the EIA report which was circulated for the general public.

The main concerns with the EIA report are:

  1. The complete EIA was not made public.
  2. The executive summary provided to the public for discussion in the meeting had a lot of incomplete information and was also found to be self contradictory.
  3. Impact on the social and economic structure of the human population to be influenced is not holistically analyzed.
  4. Impact on the ecosystem in general and the endangered species versus the Ganges River Dolphin and other aquatic species is not properly analyzed.
  5. Impact of the seismic waves on the erosion and flood problem of the Brahmaputra river system is also not addressed.

The proceedings did not end on a conclusive note due to protests and slogans from the members of public who demanded greater transparency in the EIA process. It was, however, decided that all queries will be handed over to officials of the State Pollution Control Board. OIL was asked to forward their views on the public hearing and clarify the queries raised by the house. It was decided that the Board will again call for a public opinion on the same and until such time the survey work will remain suspended.

WWF demands that a detailed and fresh EIA study is conducted as the region is extremely sensitive and very rich in biodiversity with participation of all stakeholders including conservationists and cetacean experts.

Based on information available in the public domain, the two-dimensional seismic survey has been contracted to a Kazakistan-based company which is slated to start the process in November 2006.

Given the kind of seismic tests and the “shallow” topography of the river the potential impact to the highly endangered Ganges river dolphins (Platanista gangetica) could be large as they are blind and depend entirely on ultrasonic sound system for their survival. As the survey includes high-energy underwater pulses generated by air guns and use of explosives could be fatal as has been noticed in Yangtze, China.

Additionally, the Environmental Impact Assessment work that was conducted by Guwahati University has not been made available for discussion and no cetacean specialist/biologist participated in the expert panel. WWF-India is working with University of Tokyo and Indian Institute of Technology Delhi to better understand the underwater behavioral patterns of the dolphins through acoustics. Inputs from such research work should be incorporated in the EIA process.

The population of the Ganges river dolphin is already under severe threat due to poaching, unregulated fishing of their prey food and excessive human settlements all along the river beds.

Dr Sandeep Behera, Dolphin Project Coordinator; Mr. Surajit Baruah, Education Officer, Assam, and Mr Amit Sharma, GIS Technician AREAS programme represented WWF-India at this public hearing.

For more information:
Dr. Sandeep Behera, Dolphin Project Coordinator
Tel: +91-11-4150 4813

Anshuman Atroley, Communications Manager
Tel: +91-11-4150 4797

Plataniste or Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica), Karnaphuli river, Bangladesh.
© WWF / François Xavier PELLETIER Enlarge

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