It’s three days since sunken Mongolian ship MV Black Rose started spilling oil off Orissa’s Paradip port in the Bay of Bengal, but measures to check further damage to marine life are yet to begin.
Fish and crabs are being swept to the Paradip coast since Monday when the oil spill began.
The area of the spill is close to the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, home to the endangered Olive Ridley turtles, and the Bitharkanika National Park, which harbours India’s second largest mangrove ecosystem and has the largest population of salt-water crocodiles in India.
The Paradip Port Trust (PPT) has sought instructions from the shipping ministry on how to initiate clean-up operations as the Singapore-based company that owns the ship has abandoned it.
Under environmental laws, the polluter (ship owner) has to pay for the entire clean-up and compensate for the loss of marine life. “The law is clear. The ship-owner has to pay for removing the spilled oil from the ocean,” said Banwari Lal, head of the biotechnology wing at Delhi-based NGO ‘The Energy and Research Institute’ (TERI).
The institute, which has offered to help, has developed bacteria to degrade the oil. But the Paradip Port Trust appears to be waiting for instructions to start the clean-up.
PPT chairman K. Raghuramaiah told HT, “I have already written to the Director General of Shipping for initiating action against the owner of the ship. And I’m also awaiting instructions from the Shipping Ministry on how to fund the clean-up operations.”
The national environment watchdog — the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) — washed its hands of the problem, saying the shipping ministry has to ensure the clean-up.
“The ship has sunk six nautical miles off the coast of Orissa, where maritime laws are applicable. No environmental laws of the state or the central government are applicable. The shipping ministry has to ensure that there is no loss to marine life,” CPCB chairman SP Gautam told HT.
Environment and forest ministry officials, however, said they have written to the shipping ministry, raising their concerns over the perceived damage to marine life because of oil spill.