The collision of two ships carrying LPG and high speed diesel near Ennore Port last Saturday, which led to an oil spill in a high-security zone, needs to be investigated thoroughly. Not until the issue was raised in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday was there any Centre and State concerted action to control the sludge which spilled out as a result of the accident. It now transpires that in the early stages, the ships, one of which was Indian, under-reported the spillage. The Inspector-General of Coast Guard indicated that the ships had under-reported to the extent of one-tenth.
The two ships must, indeed, be held accountable for hiding the facts. Strangely, the Indian Coast Guard used men with buckets and not machines to clear the sludge. Had machines been pressed into action, the spreading of the oil could have been minimised. It is odd that the State government was not brought into the picture for so long or that it did not react if it was brought to its attention.
The spillage has been so bad that the shore in Marina and Elliots beach have had traces of the oil. Also, other beaches in the city carry some tell-tale signs of the spill. The oil slick travelled 32 km south and entered the Palavakkam beach on East Coast Road. Experts said it was likely to travel further south and reach Uthandi by Monday. Nearly 70 tonnes of oil sludge accumulated on the Ennore shore at Ramakrishna Nagar Kuppam beach had been removed by the Coast Guard until Friday afternoon. The whole operation is likely to take three weeks. And some even predict that the impact of the spill will be felt in the area for many years. The ecological effect is something that is still emerging. But fish life has been hit and even turtles, that hatch around this time, have been hit.
On Thursday, the Coast Guard removed 21.5 tonnes of oil. The super sucker which had been employed over the previous two days could not be operated on Thursday. After the issue was raised in Parliament, a parliamentary standing committee on environment took suo motu cognisance of it and the Environment Ninistry sought a ground report.
Clearly, there have been serious lapses which must be investigated. In the fi rst place, why was the collision not averted? How could tow ships run into each other on the seas? Why was the spillage under-reported? Did the Coast Guard not have machines to remove the spillage that it relied on manual removal? Why were the Central and State authorities not informed immediately and if they were, why was action delayed? These and other allied questions must be answered speedily and responsibility must be fixed.
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