ONGC, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board say the spill is minor

On Monday, Naushad Qureshi returned from the sea with a net full of dead fish. The thick film of black grease that covered his net was the result of an oil spill from the ONGC plant along the Uran coast. Nearly 1,000 litres of crude oil has washed into the sea, according to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). The Board says the spill is a minor one.

The incident reportedly took place late on Sunday night after a power failure in the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited plant, off the Mumbai coast. “The pressure pumping capacity decreased because of the power failure, which resulted in the rupture of a supplement pipe. This pipe was carrying crude oil,” said Y. B. Sontakke, MPCB regional officer for Navi Mumbai. “The overall impact of the spill, however, will be known after a few days. We have sent samples of the oil to our laboratory,” he said.

Coast rich in crabs, lobsters

The fisherfolk along the coast disagree that the spill is small. They say that at least 6 km of the coastline—covering the villages of Peerwadi and Kegaon — is affected by the spill and they will not be able to go to the sea for at least a fortnight. “For two days now, we have been seeing dead fish coming to the shore. Even if we do manage to catch some fish, the quality will be bad and we will be unable to sell it,” said Qureshi.

The Uran coast is famous for crabs, lobsters and small prawns.

“When I woke up on Monday, the coast had become black. There was a stench and my eyes started burning. My son goes to the sea every morning and we are dependent on him. Now, we will have to wait for several days before he can get some fish,” said Sandhya Kate (70).

ONGC spokesperson S.K. Pathak said the spill was small and was being cleaned. It was only a “few hundred litres. Most of it has been contained. The only thing that remains to be cleaned is the rocks near the helipad at Peerwadi,” he said.

Fishermen say they stand to lose their livelihood for several weeks.

“On an average, we earn about Rs. 2,000 a day by selling fish. Our fishing nets are damaged now. We have small boats which can go only 2 km into the sea. Till that point we are seeing only dead fish,” said Mohammad Akbar.

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