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India: Oil Spill Near Mumbai Threatens Beaches And Mangrove Forests

If you thought that the recent oil spills in USA, Australia, Singapore or elsewhere were enough shock for the environment and the human beings then please be prepared for more trauma as India is suffering from another damaging oil spill.

Srinivasan Sampathkumar from Triplicane, Chennai informs about the latest oil spill near Mumbai Nhava Sheva port:

On 7th Aug 10, the container carrier MSC Chitra collided with MV Khalijia-III – 8 kms closer to Mumbai shore.


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The Coast Guard sounded an alert over the oil spill off the coast as slick covered a large area, aggravating the situation was the falling of containers from Chitra, which is tilting precariously. MSC Chitra had on board around 1200 containers – 200 apprehended fallen into the sea – 32 of the containers had dangerous cargo, going by the manifests. MV Khalijia III was carrying about 26000 tonnes of oil which included diesel and lube oil to a small extent. The collision is reported to be due to technical and navigational error in MSC Chitra which is listing near the JNPT. Going by the reports, this vessel was attempting to berth when it struck the other vessel. Upon receipt of SOS, all crew members were saved. [..]

Indian Coast guard started spraying operations. Five ships have been deployed in the region. [..]

Though anti pollution operations were immediate, containment and recovery of oil spill is impeded by rocky surface, tidal and weather conditions.

The impact is already being felt at the coasts of Mumbai, with fishes and water creatures being found covered with oil. NDTV reports that the oil slick has entered the sensitive mangrove belt and it can damage the flora and fauna there. The shores filled with green mangroves are already coated with black oil.

Neeta Jadhav has been collecting water samples from different locations of South Mumbai to detect pollution and she finds:

The beautiful coastline is already under high anthropogenic pressure and now, MSC Chitra and Khalijia have just added to the cause. The mixture of oil and water is known as ‘mousse', an extremely sticky substance that clings to any marine body and surface that comes in contact with it. Unfortunately, many marine life forms get trapped in it, while some may swim into it because it resembles food. Wildlife other than fish and sea creatures, including mammals, reptiles, and birds that live in or near the ocean, are also poisoned by the oil waste.

About 500 tones of oil has already flown. Other than tones of fuel, diesel and lubricant oil, 31 containers have pesticide in them. We were worrying about the oil spill and now, containers of pesticide are bobbing off on the sea.

Mumbai Mangroves with Flamingoes. Image by Flickr user Havelgotastory4u. CC BY-NC-SA

Debolina Raja Gupta used to go to the Uran beach for its beauty and clean water. But after the oil spill she finds:

The Uran beach that was once blessed with clean and pristine water is now a mess – a garbage dump to be precise. As the containers continue to spill goods from a different continent – tea, coffee, biscuits and many many more things – locals have not spared a minute to snatch the loot. And now, the same people who hauled all the loot are complaining of various problems, caused by the various chemicals.[..]

As the spill will continue to make its way in, environmentalists have said the entire mangroves will be charred and finished – I don’t want to see that happening ever. As there is no other barrier between our homes and the sea, apart from the mangroves, this will further lead to a massive flooding of the areas situated right next to the mangroves, that is, where I live now.

The Indian government has taken necessary steps but there is lot to be done. The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) has offered to clean up the mess left by oil spill with its patented homemade cocktail of bacteria called ‘Oil Zapper.’ The process, which uses bacteria to clean up the oil slick, could be used to neutralize the effect of the spill.

Debajyoti Dutta-Roy proposes some solutions to mitigate the disaster which includes:

From Times of India report, it may take 6 to 8 months to remove the ship from the shallow bed on which it is lying. Solution: An Underwater ROV can be placed to keep a watch on what is happening in and around the ship.[..]

How to solve the oil slick. Solution: Any oil slick will be maximum in the middle. So, the best thing would be to focus on the middle of the oil slick, which has the most concentration.

It may take months to contain the oil spill clean up the mess. But the worst part of the disaster is that these toxic substances can easily enter the human system and they will be passed on to the future generations. Will there ever be additional safety measures deployed in the shipping industry to prevent further oil spills?

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