CHENNAI: Even though one year has lapsed after oil spill robbed fishermen of their livelihood — damaging boats, fishing gear and drop in sales — the State government is yet to compensate the affected for the loses incurred.
The oil spill has wreaked havoc in the lives of fishing communities in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts. The State Fisheries Department has received a total of 1,12,051 claim applications, but is delaying the process alleging duplication of some claim forms.
K Bharathi of South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association told Express that in the last 40 years, 2017 was the worst year for fishing. “Fish catch fell significantly all through the year. There are about 1,200 mechanised boats in the three districts and only 300 of them venture into the sea even today. Oil spill wiped out fish stocks and still, the government is not showing concern. The fishermen are being asked to submit documents to substantiate the losses. How is it possible?” he rued.
When contacted, a senior official of Fisheries Department said many of the applications received are repetitions. “We have to follow certain procedures, which are time consuming,” he said.
Meanwhile, Meenava Thanthai Nala Sangam president Selvaraj, who filed the case in National Green Tribunal (NGT), said the bench on November 8 last year had directed the Fisheries Department to release the interim compensation for the people where there is no dispute.
“When there is a dispute with regard to the identity of the applicants and the details of the damages claimed, we cannot direct payment of interim compensation at this stage. At the same time, taking into consideration the fact that the incident occurred 10 months earlier, necessary interim payment could be paid where there is no dispute with regard to the identity of the applicants as well as the quantum of damages sustained. The State government is directed to consider this aspect and decide on the issue of payment of interim compensation, if interim compensation is not so far disbursed,” the NGT order dated November 8 reads.
Fishermen leaders also claim that, since NGT has become dysfunctional now, attempts are being made to move the polluting ship Dawn Kancheepuram, which is anchored at Marine Liquid Terminal Jetty of Ennore tank terminal, ever since the collision. A formal memoradum has been submitted to Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, asking him not to allow ship to sail away. “We will lay siege to Kamarajar Port if Dawn Kancheepuram is allowed to sail away before the compensation is paid to the fishermen,” Bharati said.
Fisheries Department has revised the quantum of total livelihood loss by fisher folk to Rs 203.22 cr and has forwarded the claim to State government to be recovered from the P&I insurer of MT Dawn Kancheepuram vessel.
Oil spill facts
The spilt oil was identified as Residual Fuel Oil (RFO), also known as furnace oil. The quantity is estimated to be about 196 tonnes by the Indian Coast Guard
- Total extent of spill is 37 kms (13 kms north & 24 kms south from the collision site)
- Total area affec-ted: 180 sq km
- The presence of chocolate mousse and tar balls were recorded in beaches from Marina to Neelankarai in the south. However, traces of tar balls were noticed up to Kovalam, further south
- In Ennore area, booms were used to contain the spill at Bharathi Nagar, the area where large quantum of oil had accumulated
- The presence of groynes in this area acted as blocking points and accumulated the spill carried by currents towards shore. This was also witnessed in the other groynes towards south
- Coating of oil was witnessed from the highest high tide mark to the low tide levels on all the groynes up to the fishing harbour breakwaters at Kasimedu
- Hydrocarbon concentration was found to be about three times higher than the pre-spill period