The oil spill generated from Monday by the sunken freighter owned by a Singapore-based firm has begun to wreak havoc in the Bay of Bengal.
Thousands of dead fish have been washed ashore at Orissa’s Paradip port town, signaling the beginning of more damage and destruction in store as the slick had spread over 6 sq km on Monday.
The ship sank on September 12 en route to an undisclosed destination in China with a cargo of 24,000 tonnes of iron ore.
“The oil slick is just 40 km from the Garimatha marine sanctuary where tens of thousands of Olive Ridley turtles congregate in winter, said Sushil Dutta, professor of zoology in North Orissa University.
“It will have a long-term impact on sharks, dolphins and other species. Fish are already dying. Other marine animals consuming these fish will also die,” he told HT.
“This is nesting time for the Olive Ridley turtles which travel to Garimatha from as far as Sri Lanka,” said a scientist with the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India. The oil has not reached the nesting site yet according to an initial assessment.
Concerned over the spill, the Union Ministry of Environment has sought a report from the Orissa government on the damage done to marine life.
India’s environment watchdog, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has asked its regional office to submit a report on the impact of oil spill on marine life near the Paradip port at the earliest.
“An oil spills causes the death of fish as it cuts oxygen flow into the water,” CPCB chairman S.P. Gautam told HT in New Delhi on Monday. “Mortality will depend on how much oil has degraded. Depending on the bacteria in the area, oil degrades in four to 10 days.”
Western countries use chemicals and genetically modified (GM) bacteria to degrade large oil spills in the sea to minimise damage to marine life.
The Department of Science and Technology recently initiated a pilot project to detect oil spills using satellite data and thereafter alert agencies about their exact locations.
Though the spill has been reported from the area where the sunken ship is currently located, the Paradip port authorities refused to confirm that the spillage was from the Black Rose. “The exact area affected by the oil slick is yet to be ascertained,” said a port trust official who did not want to be named.