Mangroves take the hit

Mangroves near the Elephanta Island in the Mumbai harbour and those near Vashi in Navi Mumbai were found to be affected on Wednesday, after merchant vessel MSC Chitra collided with MV Khalijia-III, leading to a massive oil spill in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai. There is, however, no estimate of the scale of the damage.

“We have not estimated that [extent of damage] yet. We are yet to receive a confirmation,” Valsa Nair, Environment Secretary, told The Hindu.

“The oil slick has been sighted on shore from Nariman Point to Cuffe Parade in Mumbai, Vashi and Airoli in Thane district, Uran, Mandovi and Elephanta in Raigad district. Elephanta and Navi Mumbai or BARC [Bhabha Atomic Research Centre] are reportedly the only sites where mangroves have been indicated to be affected. The Pollution Control Board has constituted four survey teams with assistance of the Coast Guard and the district or local administration, one each for Mumbai, Mumbai suburban, Thane and Raigad districts,” a press note of the Directorate General (DG) of Shipping said.

The agency said while there was no more seepage of oil from the ship since Monday, “minor leakage [was] observed from port midship with black or brown coloured trail extending up to approx 0.2 nautical miles [370 metres].”

Work on securing falling containers from the ship is under way with the help of a barge provided by M/s. SMIT International Singapore. “So far 10-15 containers have been secured.”

The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has reserved an area for the ship's containers.

Owing to a rough sea, “attempt to stabilise the ship and pumping of fuel oil has not started yet,” the note stated.

Director-General (Lighthouse and Lightships) will procure buoys to mark the containers.

Floating containers will be removed from the navigation channel with the help of strong “mooring buoys.”

“The Navy survey ship INS Yamuna undertook a survey of the entire channel. So far, only three numbers of sunken containers have been identified. [Survey data] will help the port authorities to examine the possibilities of restricted navigation,” the note said.

According to DG Shipping, the ship owner has indicated that 200 of the 512 containers placed on the deck were empty.

No contamination from hazardous chemicals was found after analysis of water samples.

Fish, on the other hand, were found to be polluted. “The Commissioner, Mumbai Municipal Corporation, has informed that about 500 kg of fish samples at Sasson Dock, Sewree and Bhaucha Dhakka were prima facie found to be contaminated. There was a need for stepping up sample testing. Further sample testing is being undertaken to ascertain the quality of the fish catch. The State Fisheries Department has also been directed by the State government to do random sampling of fish landing at a specified location like Sasoon Dock,” the DG Shipping said.

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