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To: Shri. Jatinder Singh Sahni Chairman Mumbai Pollution Control Board
Yikes Mumbai you're getting smellier! Penalize & make companies liable for oil spills around Mumbai.
- Mumbai, a city known for its many beaches, has been polluted over the years with human feces and industrial wastes. Ironically, Mumbai is indebted to the sea as it has been the main source of trade, food and sustainable fishing. However recently there has been a regular occurrence of crude oil spills from the pipelines in the coasts destroying a huge amount of marine life, mangroves and also the fragile eco system.
- The amount of daily catch has dropped severely as the fish and crabs along the coast are either dead or have moved deeper into the sea and surprisingly the oil companies usually get away with this as the Mumbai Pollution Control Board doesn’t take serious action nor make these profit making companies responsible for the irreplaceable damage, amid reports mentioning 1000 litres and more crude oil entering the sea.
- The oil spill has also caused serious damage and has burnt down the mangroves around Mahul - although clean-up may have started, but the spill is likely to spread further with wave and tidal action, causing long-term damage to saplings
- The leaking pipe, situated right off the Mahul jetty, carried crude furnace oil from the sea to the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited refinery in Chembur. Oil leaks have become frequent in the last few years around the coasts of Mumbai. Fishermen find it hard to find a catch, and due to the thick layer of oil on water and their fishing nets are destroyed along with it.
- Mumbai Pollution control board should take serious action and bring in stringent rules for the polluters to pay a fine to make these corporations more responsible for the maintenance and transportation of the oil to restore the wetlands.
Why is this important?
Mahul Creek, a tidal creek located around Chembur and Mahul in north-west Mumbai, is surrounded by oil refineries such as BPCL Refinery, TATA Power Company and a few others.
In between all these oil refineries sits Mahul village. A large number of people in this village depend on fishing to earn their daily wages.The fishermen from Mahul catch fish in the creek from Mahul to the Trombay area. In addition to this the government has also granted permission to the fishermen to enter the lands owned by the refineries to carry out their fishing activities.
Since there are numerous refineries around the area, a large amount of effluents and discharged oil is always present in the water. However, in the past 7-8 months the amount of leakages has increased drastically. Usually when an oil spill occurs, the pipelines are surveyed for leakages and the surveyors stay in the village for a month during this period.However, in this case they were unable to find the source of this particular leakage for a long time.
The leakage has caused severe damage to the ecosystem and marine life. Fishermen have not been able to catch fish properly as the oil coats their nets and ruins them. They also had to stop fishing completely for 2 months as the oil spill made it impossible to fish without damaging their nets or finding decent catch. The fishermen use very large and expensive nets to catch their fish – about 40 men are needed to manage a single fishing net – and hence they cannot risk damaging their nets.
The oil coating the surface of the water also results in the death of many fish and other marine life. Usually when there is a spill a large amount of marine life is affected; as the tide moves. the oil spreads across which affects the quality and quantity of fish. The stench of the oil often sticks to the fish which reduces the price drastically; for a catch that could earn Rs.5000, they end up getting only Rs.500. Also, even if the oil is cleaned up, the smell of oil on the fish remains.The oil spill is a big impediment to their livelihood as the villagers mostly depends on fishing and related activities.
The oil spill has also destroyed the mangroves which were abundant in this region. The mangroves surrounding this area have been completely burnt down and destroyed, also causing long term damage to the saplings. Research has estimated that between 20 to 30 acres of mangroves along a 2 kilo-meter stretch of the coast have been destroyed, also adding that the chances of them growing back are remote. The sludge collected in this area is very thick and could cover the entire village. There are also several health repercussions that the villagers could face because of the leakage.
Since the oil was not removed in time, the entire area has been affected. The companies always pass the buck and delay clean-up operations which in-turn destroys marine life, ecosystem and the livelihood of hundreds of people .