The oil spill on the Uran coast close to Mumbai is larger than what was estimated, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has said. The admission came two days after the leak of crude oil from an ONGC pipeline. It took 12 hours to cap.

Initially the MPCB estimated that 1,000 litres of oil had washed into the sea. On Wednesday, it said the figure could be thrice more. “The leakage started at 8.30 p.m. on Sunday and it was arrested around 11 a.m. the following day. This means that a lot of oil has seeped into the sea. It is definitely more than thrice the amount the ONGC estimated,” said Dr. Y.B. Sontakke, MPCB’s regional officer for Navi Mumbai.

The MPCB has sought a report from the Directorate of Industrial Health and Safety which has gathered samples from Uran to study the concentration of oil in the water and soil.

ONGC spokesperson S.K. Pathak, however, maintained that the slick was minor.“The leakage was contained in the channel itself. A minor amount went into the sea,” he said.

When The Hindu visited the area on Tuesday, several fishermen said they would not be able to go to sea for a few weeks because the fish would be either dead or unfit for consumption. Deepak Apte from the Bombay Natural History Society said whether the slick was big or small, the impact on marine life is always there.“This spot, especially, is where oil spills have occurred earlier. It will definitely have some impact on mangroves. This is also the period soon after seeding, so the impact will be greater,” he said.

In the recent past, major oil spills have caused major damage to the ecology.In August 2010, the collision of merchant ships MSC Chitra and MV Khalija 3 off Mumbai’s coast spilled over 800 tons of oil into the sea. Over 8.57 lakh mangroves along the coastlines of Mumbai, Thane and Raigad districts were severely affected.

In January 2011, ONGC’s Mumbai-Uran trunk pipeline burst spilling oil across four sq.km. off the Mumbai coast.

In August 2011, MV Rak which was carrying 60,000 metric tons of coal, 290 tons of furnace oil and 50 tons of fuel oil, sank.

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