Bittu Sahgal Writes To T.N. Governor On Chennai Oil Spill
In the interest of coastal communities, volunteer workers and the environment, Sanctuary’s Editor calls for state authorities to take responsibility for the Chennai Oil Spill that occurred off the Ennore Port in late January.
Photo: Amirtharaj Stephen.
February 7, 2017
Shri. CH. Vidyasagar Rao
Governor, Tamil Nadu
Chennai – 600 022.
On January 28, 2017, two cargo ships collided off the Ennore Port and spilled an estimated 30 tons of oil into the ocean, which quickly spread across 30 km. of the state’s coastline.
Oil spills are grave environmental disasters and require urgent and immediate attention in order to minimise damage. Unfortunately, the response to what is being called the Chennai Oil Spill has been underwhelming. The serious nature of the spill was under-reported by the concerned shipping companies, and the subsequent clean-up efforts have been disorganised.
Though the spill has polluted beaches, is killing wildlife including vulnerable olive Ridley turtles that nest on Chennai’s beaches, and has impacted the livelihoods of coastal fishing communities, no government authority has yet taken responsibility. The clean-up efforts are being led by the Coast Guard with the support of enthusiastic but unprepared volunteers, many of whom have exposed themselves to health risks due to the lack of equipment and expert leadership.
It is a matter of regret that multiple state authorities have undermined the serious nature of this disaster. While across the globe, oil spills are dealt with on an urgent basis that includes the deployment of technologies to expedite clean-up efforts, Tamil Nadu has displayed near criminal negligence by leaving the onus of the clean-up on bucket-wielding citizens, many of whom are unaware of the serious hazards of working with the toxic oil.
In the interest of the people and ecological security of the state, I urge you to make a statement on the matter and engage reputed organisations to immediately begin to assess and control the damage based on international standards. At the same time, it is absolutely essential that the clean-up workers are supplied with necessary safety equipment and that the shipping authorities responsible for the spill are brought to book.
We look towards you for prompt action.
Sanctuary Nature Foundation