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Oil spill off the Coast of Orissa


14 April 2010

A huge oil spill has washed up on the Rushikulya river mouth in Orissa this morning. The heavy oil slick is now floating near the beach and some of it has washed ashore on the sea turtle nesting beaches at Gokharkuda and Kantigada, where more than 1,00,000 endangered olive ridley sea turtles nested last month. The oil has entered Rushikulya river, and it could also threaten Chilika lake, since the Palur canal connects the river with the lake.

Fishermen who had gone out to sea early this morning first reported the oil clogging their nets; they had to return empty handed. The Coast Guard has reached the spot, and it appears that the oil is leaking from the fuel tanks of a ship called "Malavika" which was on its way to Gopalpur Port, and apparently collided with another ship.

There are fears that the oil spill will do irreversible damage to the sea turtle population which are still present in the offshore waters, and to the turtle eggs that have been laid on the beaches.  Marine fauna, on which the fish catch of local communities depend and which are also food for the sea turtles, will be severely affected. The oil can be ingested by the turtles leading to their death and the critically endangered dolphins of Chilika lake might also be affected by the oil. The oil spill needs to be urgently contained so that there is no adverse effect on the marine fauna or the turtle eggs.

Biswajit Mohanty, Secretary of the Wildlife Society of Orissa, is on his way to Rushikulya to take stock of the situation. WPSI has informed the National Disaster Management Authority and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and has been in touch with the Coast Guard headquarters in Delhi.

Update on the oil spill off the coast of Orissa
15 April 2010

The offending ship, "Malvika", was apparently a coal-carrying ship belonging to Essar Shipping. Biswajit Mohanty reported that it had anchored out at sea near Gopalpur and was rammed at around 4:40 pm on Monday afternoon by one of the collection barges that had come from Gopalpur Port. The damaged fuel pipe was quickly repaired, but not before about 7,000 litres of fuel had leaked out into the sea.

The incident took place about 12 km away from Rushikulya where the oil spill eventually washed onto the turtle nesting beaches. Although dead fish were seen in the morning, by the afternoon the oil slick had been swept ashore and was covering about 10 km of the beach, in an area from 8 km north of the Rushikulya river mouth to 2 km south of Rushikulya. The Coast Guard carried out two aerial surveys, in the morning and in the afternoon, and could find no further oil slicks.

The Gopalpur Port authorities arrived in Rushikulya in the afternoon (14 April), and with the assistance of the DFO, began clearing up the oil spill. A team from the insurance company is on its way to Orissa from London to survey the damage. They have been alerted about the critical turtle nesting beaches.





 

 

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