Ennore Oil Spill Spreads Across Chennai Coast
The oil spill near Ennore Port that took place when two cargo ships collided on 28 January 2017,has spread across the Chennai coast. An application that was filed in the National Green Tribunal concerning the oil spill will be heard on 20 February, 2017.
Photo: Vinita Govindarajan.
As per the report submitted by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), the collision caused a 20 tonne oil spill consisting of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and petroleum oil lubricant. However, as of Friday morning, February 3, 72 tonnes of sludge was reported to have been removed from the water by hundreds of volunteers and the coast guard. However, environmentalists have warned that enthusiastic but unsupervised cleanup efforts can be a health hazard to those involved. “Entering the sea to remove oil sludge is not a good thing because it requires trained supervisors, first aid posts and a clear protocol with a chain of command. By now, the respiratory hazard from volatile gases may have considerably reduced. However, coming in contact with tarballs and oily patches can still lead to dermatitis, skin cancer and other health effects in the immediate, near and long terms.” Wrote Chennai-based activist Nityanand Jayaraman in a Facebook post aimed at volunteers.
The oil, apart from being carcinogenic, cut off oxygen supply to aquatic life, resulting in the death of a number of fish and turtles. The dead turtles that washed ashore belong to the endangered olive Ridley species. Environmental experts claim that the spill could have a long-standing effect on marine biodiversity, causing irreparable damage. Local fishermen too are suffering as they find themselves incapable of taking their boats out into the polluted waters. Rumours of dead fish have further impeded their business.
Even as the locals, volunteers, fishermen and the Indian Coast Guard carry out operations to clear the oil sludge, port officials have neither informed people living near the shore of the hazardous situation, nor have they provided adequate gear to the volunteers. All the cleaning is being done manually with buckets, since according to Port authorities, technology and machinery proved ineffective in drawing out the oil from the water.
While the oil spilled spread further down to Marina beach, 20 km. from Ennore Port on Monday, the INCOIS reported that the spillage has contaminated 24.06 km. of the state's shoreline.
Oil spills across the world are met with extreme urgency as the repercussions can be devastating, wiping out entire eco-systems. In Chennai however, the state's lackadaisical response, lack of coordination between authorities, and a general lack of preparedness has allowed the sludge to spread.
These spills are usually cleaned in three conventional ways: using skinners (long solid booms) that surround and isolate the oil slick, collecting oil from the surface of the water; chemical dispersants can be used to break down the oil and speed up its natural bio degradation; using biological agents (like fertilizers that contain Nitrogen and Phosphorous) to break down the oil that washes up on the shoreline.
Sources: Livemint, Times of India, NDTV.