Large tar balls wash up on Juhu beach: BMC collects samples, to notify fisheries dept

Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai
Jul 07, 2019 11:24 PM IST

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said the amount of tar balls this year was unusually larger

Tar balls ranging from 15 to 20cm in diameter, and weighing almost six to seven kilograms (kg) were found in large quantities across various parts of Juhu beach on Friday and Saturday, forcing environment groups to file complaints with state agencies to remove them and identify the source.

BMC has warned visitors not to touch the tar balls on Juhu beach.(Sarita Fernandes/Vanashakti)
BMC has warned visitors not to touch the tar balls on Juhu beach.(Sarita Fernandes/Vanashakti)

While deposits of tar along coastal areas following high tide ingress is a common phenomenon during monsoon, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said the amount this year was unusually larger.

“The contractor appointed at Juhu beach has been directed to remove these tar balls at the earliest. Most years, the amount is much lesser and spread across isolated areas, but this time, large balls have washed ashore, indicating higher oil deposition at sea,” said Prashant Gaikwad, assistant municipal commissioner, BMC.

Gaikwad said BMC will write to the fisheries department to investigate the source. “Samples have been collected as evidence and will be tested for pollutants by the civic body,” he said.

Environment group Vanashakti filed a complaint with the Maharashtra government on Saturday regarding the issue. “The odour from these tar balls was pungent,” said Sarita Fernandes, conservation officer, Vanashakti. “Tar balls are an aquatic pollutant, occurring from blobs of crude oil which have been weathered after floating at sea. They pose a serious threat to marine and inter-tidal wildlife.”

Other beaches across Mumbai’s coast have reported similar instances of tar balls as well. “At Versova and Dana Pani beach in Malad, we observed tar balls similar to previous years. Apart from the obnoxious odour, when they mix with sand and garbage, it becomes extremely tough to remove them during clean-ups,” said Afroz Shah, lawyer and beach clean-up crusader.

The state fisheries department said they had been notified about the oil deposits on Saturday. “We have directed our assistant commissioners to visit these areas and prepare a report on the amount of tar along major beaches in Maharashtra,” said Rajendra Jadhav, joint commissioner, fisheries department.

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) said most of the oil was coming from large cargo vessels beyond 12 nautical miles, moving parallel to the state coast. “The increasing amount indicates that there is more oil runoff in the deep seas. We will monitor the situation on major high-tide days and take appropriate action if the quantity continues to increase,” said YB Sontakke, joint director (water quality), MPCB.

“Tar balls need to be removed from beaches as there could have bacteria (vibrio) growing on them. People should avoid coming in contact with them,” said Ajay Nakhawa, scientist from Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Mumbai.


    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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