Tamil Nadu

Volunteers step in, but practical problems exist

Even as government departments and the Coast Guard grapple with the aftermath of the massive oil spill off Ennore, volunteers have once again stepped in to help in a time of crisis.

It has now become a feature for Chennai youngsters and volunteers to step in during calamity. However, all is not rosy as complaints about lack of safety precautions, poor coordination and general apathy from the government pour in. Unlike the 2015 floods or 2016 cyclone, the task at hand is more dangerous as the bunker oil can cause serious health complications.

While volunteers are being given gloves and gum boots by the administration, those who go on treks and sportspersons and have access to such safety equipment are being asked to bring their own equipment.

Arun Krishnamurthy of Environmentalist Foundation of India, who has been coordinating with volunteers, said it was the conservancy workers whose work has to be celebrated. “Frankly, they are doing 98 per cent of the work. We are doing the remaining work, like carrying the buckets with oil, passing it and taking it to the tanks,” he said.

Navaneethan S. of Green Warriors said there were practical problems on the field. “The gloves given by the government only cover my hands till the wrist. I already have sun burns on my neck and upper back working in the heat. Many of us also get headaches due to the smell of the oil.”

But, both point out that the work is being shoddily managed. “We are removing the oil manually, which is using buckets. This is a very risky operation. This is not like our lake clean-up operations. The oil is very contagious and infectious. Only people who are capable of taking care of themselves should come,” Mr. Krishnamurthy said, adding that they needed more volunteers.

Mr. Navaneethan said there was no proper structure or chain of command in the administration to oversee the operations. Both added that it was very important to take care of Chennai’s coast which is already exploited and that the spill should have been contained within the first day.

Meanwhile, Akila Balu of the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network said they will be undertaking clean-up operations in association with the Forest Department from Besant Nagar beach to Adyar estuary on Saturday and Sunday . The Chennai Trekking Club is also set to join the operations, she said.

Shravan Krishnan, environmentalist, said maximum nesting of turtles takes place near the Adyar estuary. “Apart from turtles, the marine life along the coast will also be affected by the oil spill.”

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 12:07:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Volunteers-step-in-but-practical-problems-exist/article17151831.ece

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