Oil Spill Spreads Across India’s Western Coast
Solidified lumps of crude oil, known as “tar balls” have been reported spreading across the coast of Southern Gujarat.
This incident was brought to attention on August 5, 2018 when tar balls were found on the beaches of Umargam, Nargol and Tithal. A day later, on August 6, 2018 the tar balls had expanded covering a stretch of 40 km., from the initial spread of 20 km., reported Down To Earth.
As per media reports, the tar balls had also been spotted on beaches in neighboring Daman, hinting at chances of a wider spread further up to parts of Northern Maharashtra, across 150 km. of the coastline.
These deposits of petroleum oil, resulting from an oil spill, the source of which is yet to be determined, can spell disaster for marine ecology. Since it is the fish breeding season, this will also adversely impact the livelihoods of fishing communities.
The Brackish Water Research Centre (BWRC), an organization working for environment, ecology, fisheries with the coastal communities of Gujarat, has demanded investigation into the oil spill incident.
The president of BWRC, M.S.H. Sheikh cited the incidents of oil spills in the same area in the past few years (2009, 2010, 2013 & 2017), stressing that unless quick action is taken the tar balls will only spread further in the next few days.
The BWRC has issued an eight-pointer notice to the concerned authorities and government bodies, outlining the steps that must be taken:
1. Investigation by Coast Guard to ﬁnd source of the spill and action to be taken towards controlling further spread of tar balls on the coastlines.
2. Lift and shift the TAR Balls and oil from public beaches and coastline and dispose it as per HW rules. This tasks should be carried out by State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and Pollution Control Committee (PCC).
3. In depth ﬁngerprinting of oil and tar balls should be carried out immediately. For ﬁngerprinting of crude oil, systematic scheme should be adopted. National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) may be asked to carry out ﬁngerprinting of the spilled oil.
4. Remediation plan should be asked by MOEFCC from a reputed organization like NIO.
5. In case Coast Guard fails to ﬁnd the source and location of spill, assistance must be taken from ISRO/SAC in ﬁnding out the source of oil spill.
6. Gujarat Maritime Board has established the Vessel Traffic Management System radar which are capable of capturing the images of spilled oil.
7. Clean-up operation must start immediately. Necessary funds may be released by GPCB, MPCB and DPCC for remediation/clean-up of the coastal belt. DGH, MOPNG, Coastguard, CZMA of Gujarat- Maharashtra and Daman may co-ordinate the cleanup task with local authority.
8. Proper implementation of NOSDCP should be there to avoid further beach pollution.
While the Gujarat Pollution Control Board has collected the tar ball samples from the beaches and sent them for testing, M.S.H. Sheikh has reiterated the importance of manual clean-up from the beaches of Gujarat.
“Fingerprinting was carried out even in the 2014 oil spill. However, no report was made available and therefore no action whatsoever was taken. Even today, if the beaches of Gujarat, previously affected by oil spills are assessed, I am certain that one will find oil deposits deep in the sand. This can be extremely harmful to the coastal biodiversity” said Sheikh.
“It is the Coast Guard’s responsibility to look after the clean-up of the polluted sea waters. However, their lackadaisical approach and a reluctance to question the powerful Ministry of Petroleum only makes matters worse” he said.