The Maharashtra government on Tuesday decided to call in experts to assess the damage caused by the oil spill from the ship MSC Chitra on August 7.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said: “If the damage to the environment in terms of afforestation of mangroves is worked out, it will be billed to the companies owning the ships.”
Mediterranean Shipping operates the MSC Chitra.
Admitting it did not have the expertise to manage the problem, the environment department decided to ask the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI) to conduct an environment impact assessment.
“We will also ask NIO and NEERI experts to study the impact of the oil leak ...” said Valsa Nair Singh, environment secretary.
The NIO will study the impact on aquatic life while NEERI will examine beaches, wetlands and mangroves.
Also, the Maharashtra government said that the Centre should create an emergency mechanism to handle oil spills because the region had two of the country’s busiest ports.
State Ports and Transport Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said the state had asked the Centre to set up a joint coordination committee of all the agents involved so that any such disaster could be handled deftly. The committee, said Vikhe-Patil, should have members from the state and central governments, Mumbai Port Trust and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT).
“The committee will strengthen the working of ports, tackle disasters and avert mishaps,” he added.
The realisation that such a mechanism is needed is born of the confusion that arose after Saturday’s oil spill. Ports are under the administrative control of the Centre, which creates bureaucratic hurdles for the state when emergency steps are needed, Vikhe-Patil said.
Vikhe-Patil reiterated the demand that handling hazardous material should be shifted to other ports. Earlier, his suggestion that Mumbai Port be shifted out of the city had created a controversy.
The captain of MSC Chitra, Mandeleno Ranjit Martin, sought anticipatory bail on Tuesday, saying the collision was because of navigation error caused by the failure of radio communication. “There was no error on the Martin’s part...” said his lawyer Rishi Bhuta.