Between 1984 till 1986 there have been ten major oil spills, where more than 1,000 tonnes of oil, diesel or naptha was spilled including 40,000 tonnes of crude oil off Mumbai High in 1991 and again 40,000 tonnes of crude oil in Nicobar-Sumatra in 1993.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences has now come up with a computer simulation model which can track oil spills as they move off shore to coastal areas and also predict the areas it would hit.
The model has been installed at Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad, an autonomous institute under the Ministry, which mans it on 24x7 basis along with interim tsunami warning system.
The Western part of Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Lakshadweep and the Nicobar Islands lie close to one of the major oil tanker routes originating from the Gulf countries going to South East Asia. Nearly 500 million tonnes of crude oil are carried by about 3500 tankers along this route.
Minister for Earth Sciences Kapil Sibal, talking to the media said on Saturday, that the Integrated Coastal Marine Area Management Project Directorate (ICMAM-PD), Chennai, which had developed this general model would be also going in for location specific models for 42 economically, ecologically, environmentally and archaeologically sensitive areas in the country which fall along the tanker routes.
Project Director Dr BR Subramanian from ICMAM-PD, said it would require Rs 1 crore for developing location specific models for twenty most high risk sites including Mumbai, Goa, Kerala, seven islands of Lakshadweep, Gulf of Mannar, Chennai, Sunderbans, Port Blair, Vishakhapattanam, Hoogly, Andaman and Nicobar.
He said oil spills prevented oxygen replenishment causing death of plankton and fish larvae, damaging coral reefs by killing coral polyps, blocked breathing of trees in mangroves, affected turtle nesting grounds, gave an unaesthetic appearance on beaches affecting bathing and tourism.
He said once information of oil regarding its location, quantity etc was available to them the model would be run by INCOIS based on oil type, location, bathymetry (depth of water), live data of wind speed, wind direction, sea current and tide condition, satellite of aerial photographs to predict the likely path to be taken by oil spill and shoreline to be affected.
Online realtime monitoring could be done about the movement and likely striking area of the spill which would be sent to Coast Guard, Port Authority, state government, Ministry of Home Affairs, National Disaster Management Authority, State Pollution Control Board and others authorities to take preventive measures generally through deployment of booms made of rubber to block movement of oil, using mechanical skimmers to remove oil, spraying of chemical dispersants to degrade oil.