A large quantum of thick and dark oil washed ashore from Bharathiyar Nagar beach in Ernavur to Marina Light House in Chennai. Tonnes of tar-like thick black oil has polluted several square kilometres of sea in the Bay of Bengal.
According to fishermen, tar-like thick oil started to collect near the shore from Saturday evening. Fishermen around Marina complained that they found it difficult to navigate their boats in the sea because of the thick oil deposits. The fishermen are demanding compensation for loss of livelihood.
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials said the spill could be the result of the accidental collision of two ships, the inbound vessel MT Dawn Kanchipuram and the outbound vessel LPG/CBW Maple in the wee hours on Saturday at Ennore port’s anchorage.
“There was a collision between a LPG tanker vessel, BW Maple, Isle of Man flagship, and vessel MT Kancheepuram, an oil and chemicals tanker, on the outskirts of Ennore at 4 am (on Saturday). So, this could be a result of that. As it is so thick, we are not able to find out what type of oil it is. We are conducting an investigation,” said a senior official.
While a statement from Kamarajar Port claims that there was no damage to the environment, or casualty or injury, the Times of India reported that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Darya Ship Management and Kamarajar Port have been held responsible for damage to the environment.
The New Indian Express reports:
“The biggest challenge was that both Kamarajar Port and the vessel that caused the disaster remained in denial, leaving the official machinery clueless about what they were dealing with. Minister of State (Shipping) Pon Radhakrishnan visited the port and observed that ‘there were no spills/sheens in the area’, claims a release from the port.”
By Sunday morning the dark thick stagnant oil spread southward about 25km from the outskirts of Ennore where the accident occurred polluting several beaches, including the iconic Marina Beach in Chennai and beyond.
Now, the oil has converted sandy beaches, including the Marina, into a slushy ground, making it inaccessible to the public. Oily sludge. coats the rocks on the coast.
The mild smell of salt and fish that wafted in the air in the neighbourhoods along the beach has been replaced with a heavy, pungent emanation of petroleum and tar.
Hordes of fish and many turtles and hatchlings covered with thick oil were found dead near Ernavour and some were found washed ashore at Marina Beach.
According to environmental experts, the spill could have a long-lasting adverse impact on marine life. The shoreline is known for Olive Ridley turtles which nest on local beaches between January and April every year.
Now, the ill-equipped pollution response teams of the Indian Coast Guard are carrying out an impossible mopping operation. As the Indian Coast Guard lacks the technical expertise, the authorities have invited private companies to bid for the cleanup work.