‘Chennai oil spill is a cover-up, not a clean-up’

The oil sludge removed from shores were dumped in pits close to the sea near Kasimedu

Published: 12th February 2017 02:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th February 2017 12:52 PM   |  A+A-

the clean-up operation at Bharathi Nagar has come to a halt following fishermen’s protest | ashwin prasath

Express News Service

CHENNAI: In a shocking revelation it was found that the oil sludge removed from the city’s shores during the clean-up operations were buried in pits close to the sea in fishing hamlets near Kasimedu, north of the city.

The huge oil spill on January 28 from MT Dawn Kancheepuram was due to its collision with British flagged ship BW Maple in Ennore on Kamarajar Port’s channel. It loomed as an environmental disaster as the oil and tar balls accumulated along the city’s shoreline extended up to Muttukadu in the south.

Spearheaded by the Coast Guard, the clean-up operations were carried out by a host of agencies with participation of volunteers from local fishermen and students.

A worker shows the oil-mixed sand,
at K V K Kuppam, on Saturday

Officials had said the removed oil sludge would be dumped inside the Kamarajar Port in Ennore and treated with microbes for a bio-remediation process. However, when Express visited KVK Kuppam, a fishing hamlet near Kasimedu, at least seven pits were found close to the sea in which the removed oil spill were found buried.

“We don’t know who dumped the sludge into the pits,” said a person working on contract for Dariya Shipping, the company which owns MT Dawn Kancheepuram. Seven drums, each of 20 litres capacity, were found lying on the shore. 

The spot was just two km from Bharathi Nagar, the worst affected place due to the oil spill.
Fishermen are worried that dumping of oil sludge would make the entire cleaning process a futile exercise. “The sludge would again mix with the sea during the high tides. This would again lead to a crisis,” said Srikanth,

On Friday, a group of fishermen from the KVK Kuppam area, led by a local councillor, stopped the clean-up operations at Bharathi Nagar, demanding the officials to first clear the dumped oil sludge. “We have not carried out any work since some local goons (referring to fishermen) stopped us from carrying out the work on Friday,” said an official of Viraj Clean Sea Enterprises, one of the companies contracted to undertake the clean-up operations by Dariya Shipping. “We have to clean the rocks by using hot water and high jet pressure cleaner. But the entire operation has been put on hold,” he said. 

Meanwhile, no official from the Indian Coast Guard, the nodal agency to clean up the oil spill, could be seen at the spot. Despite repeated phone calls, senior Coast Guard officials could not be reached for comments.

When Express visited the shores along KVK Kuppam, it was full of tar balls and a thick layer of oil on the shore. “It is a cover-up and not a clean-up. Their intent is just to get the job done,” said noted environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman while hitting out at State pollution control board officials. “Where is Pollution Control Board officials who have to oversee the entire clean-up operations? If it is being done under the watch of board officials, then they are guilty. Else it is a case of negligence on their part,” said Jayaraman.

Indian Oil Corporation’s deputy general manager, (Research and Development), S K Puri, one of the two IOC scientists to supervise the treatment process in Kamarajar Port, told Express that dumping the oil sludge in pits would exponentially increase the time required for the bio-remediation process. The collected oil sludge must immediately be taken to the port for treating with microbes, he added. 

“The bio-remediation process would take three to four months. But if they dump it in pits, then it would take more than two to three years to get it treated and it could pose a threat to environment,” Puri said.


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