Joint teams of the Coast Guard, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and district administrations will start cleaning up coastal areas affected by the oil spill from Thursday.
So far, the state administration has collected 43 water samples from 23 locations. From these, oil was detected at Gateway of India, Cuffe Parade, Nariman Point, Geeta Nagar slums at Colaba, Vashi and Airoli. Mangroves at Vashi and Airoli have been coated with an oil layer, but officials said the damage was minor. Contaminated samples were also found at Elephanta Caves and Uran.
While the clean-up is scheduled, the state has so far not approved funds for it. MPCB has to fund all the equipment required, such as gunny bags, straw mats, plastic brooms, gloves and boots. As of now, the clean-up crews have little of the equipment needed.
“The teams include Coast Guard officials, who will suggest a plan for cleaning the sites. We have asked for volunteers from non-governmental organisations and fishermen, apart from the National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme,” said Environment Secretary Valsa Nair Singh. She said oil firms might help too. Indian Oil Corporation has offered help with the shore operations, which could help solve the funding problem.
The oil will be soaked up with gunny bags and straw mats, which will then be incinerated. The state also plans to put up barricades at Vashi creek to stop the slick from spreading into inter-tidal zones and the mouths of the creeks. Chemical sprays for dispersing the oil are an option, but the state is unsure of its effects on mangroves.
Singh met Coast Guard Inspector-General S.P.S. Basra to work out the details of the plan. Coast Guard officials said the slick would be washed away with the tides and was not as serious as it was made out to be. “It was not crude oil, but fuel,” said an official.