The state government, faced with the task of containing 879 tons of oil that leaked out of the MSC Chitra after a collision on Saturday, decided to call in the experts.
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 to study the impact of the oil leak on the sea as well as the shore," said Valsa Nair Singh, environment secretary.
NIO will study the impact on aquatic life while NEERI will examine beaches, wetlands and mangroves.
The scope of the study would include possible afforestation of mangroves and the cost of the damage. The state already has some reports of mangroves being affected at Vashi.
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."
This is unfamiliar territory for the state. It does not have the expertise to study the environmental impact or even clean up the pollution. Environment Minister Suresh Shetty said the state would hire experts to help in the clean-up.
By Tuesday, samples of seawater and oil sediment had been collected at Cuffe Parade, Colaba, the Geeta Nagar slum, Gateway of India and Vashi. Similar samples were collected at Uran, Rewas, Mandwa and Kihim where rudimentary clean-up operations have begun.
The Fisheries Department has sought help from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute to work out insurance claims for fishermen.