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'There is no reason to get alarmed'

mumbai Updated: Aug 10, 2010 00:47 IST
Presley Thomas
Presley Thomas
Hindustan Times
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There is no danger to Mumbai's coastline from the oil spill that occurred after two ships collided on Saturday, said Inspector-General of the Coast Guard S.P.S. Basra, adding that the oil would be cleared soon.

How grim is the situation?
It is not a disaster. For the first two days, we too thought it was serious. Globally, a spill is called a disaster only when the oil runs into lakhs of tons. Here, it's a question of 800 tons, so there's no cause for alarm.

There were reports of oil reaching Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Uran, Alibaug and Elephanta Caves.
Civil administrations in districts that we thought could be affected were alerted. We have reports from the district collectors of Thane, Navi Mumbai and Raigad that no oil was sighted on their coastlines. At BARC, some residual oil patches were sighted; they will be cleared with chemical dispersants. Oil patches at Elephanta and Butcher islands have been cleared. The oil has not reached Alibaug.

Is the oil spilling out at the same rate as on the first two days? What is the extent of the environmental threat?
MSC Chitra has eight tanks containing 2,662 tons of oil. Two tanks perforated after the collision. Tank No. 2 had 256 tons, while Tank No 3 had 623 tons. Oil from these tanks was draining out on the first two days. Now, it's a trickle. It's tough to determine the environmental threat; that is for the pollution control board to determine. I don't think it would have far-reaching consequences.

Was the ship carrying hazardous chemicals?
MSC Chitra was carrying 1,219 containers. As per regulations, it had declared that 31 containers had hazardous chemicals, mostly pesticides. It's too early to say if they pose a threat. But, containers are normally airtight so water entering them and chemicals spilling into the sea can be ruled out.
We will have to be careful while pulling out the containers, but expert international firms are on the job.

Who will pay for the damage?
The polluter. A detailed report will be made, including what compensation fishermen should get and which firm should pay for the damage as well as for the disaster control operations.