• Thursday, Nov 14, 2019
  • Last Update : 05:43 pm

Compensation still lacking 22 years on from Magurchara tragedy

  • Published at 01:09 pm June 14th, 2019
Web_Magurchhara-UNB
A destructive gas well blowout occurred close to midnight at the Magurchhara gas field in Kamalganj, Moulvibazar on June 14, 1997 UNB

The explosion is estimated to have caused losses of between Tk9,000 to Tk14,000 crore 

Twenty-two years on, no compensation has been provided for the damage caused by the Magurchara tragedy.

On June 14, 1997, a destructive gas well blew out at the Magurchara gas field in Kamalganj, Moulvibazar district. 

US oil company Occidental was drilling the well at the time. 

Although an investigation report into the incident blamed the tragedy on the irresponsibility, negligence, and mistakes of those operating the well, neither Occidental nor international oil companies (IOCs) provided any compensation for the explosion.

The area affected by the explosion included: reserved forest, part of the Akhaura-Sylhet railway, Fulbari tea orchards, part of the Kamalganj- Srimangal highway, Magurchara Khasia punji, and the main power line of PDB.

Twenty-eight tea gardens of the area were affected by strong quakes. 

Trees, the environment, and  all the biodiversity over an area of nearly 700 hectares of nearby forest area were damaged. 

Additionally, 200 billion cubic feet of gas—whose market value stood at $500 million—was wasted.

The total loss caused by the explosion has been estimated at between Tk9,000 to Tk14,000 crore. However, no pragmatic step has yet been taken to collect compensation from the perpetrators. 

The total loss in the forest area totals Tk9,858 crore and 31 lakh. 

Further, 2,000 feet of railway track was damaged at a cost of Tk8,154,395 lakh. 

Losses of Tk21 crore for roads and Tk13 lakh for gas pipelines were reported.

A probe body—led by a senior official of Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources—was formed; it submitted its 500-page report on July 30, 1997.

Later, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources formed a three-member sub-committee to determine the extent of damage, collect the compensation, and distribute it.

The probe body told the sub-committee that the accident happened due to the failure of Occidental to perform their duties as planned. 

The investigators pointed to 15 - 16 errors committed by the company. 

Although the officials of Occidental objected to about two or three errors, they acknowledged the others and signed the investigation report.

However, without paying compensation, the company left the country after handing over the responsibility of the gas field to another US company, Unocal. 

The second company later handed over their interests to US company Chevron, and left Bangladesh.