Two Central government ministries had a differing view on the source of oil spill on Juhu beach in south Mumbai even as environmentalists fear it can cause huge ecological damage to marine biodiversity.
On Monday, the Shipping ministry said the source of the spill was from sunken ship M V Rak Carrier whereas environment ministry gave a clean chit to it. Instead, it believes that the spill is from M V Pavit, the ship that drifted from coast of Oman and reached Mumbai on July 31.
"The spill is because of localized phenomenon and not due to Rak Carrier," a ministry statement said, quoting the Maharashtra government report. Earlier the shipping ministry statement blamed Rak Carrier, which sank last Thursday with coal, fuel and diesel on board, for the spill. A senior ministry official told Hindustan Times that the Maharashtra state pollution control board has been asked to examine M V Pavit for the possible leak, a day after the spill was noticed. Central Pollution Control Board chairperson S P Gautam had been sent to Mumbai to track the exact source of the leak and study its ecological impact.
"We have also asked National Institute for Oceanography to study the ecological impact of the oil spill," Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan said. Gautam said estimating the exact ecological loss will take time as the "extent" and "exposure" of the oil spill in mangrove areas will have to be examined.
Ecologists, however, fear the worst saying the spill has spread up to 12 nautical miles from the beach to rich marine bio-diverse areas including mangrove forests within a day with little effort to contain it.
"It is very unfortunate that the oil slick is evident at the peak time of fish breeding as well as flowering and fruiting season of most of the mangrove species. Even the thin layer of oil persisting for significant time will kill marine fauna," said Swapna Prabhu, systematic botanist and taxonomist with the Bombay Natural History Society.
Gautam hopes the ecological loss to be minimal saying the spill has reduced and was just 1 to 2 mgs per litre which was negligible. Shipping ministry said they have been able to contain the spill.