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Mumbai oil spill a 'big disaster', clean-up op on

Last updated on: August 10, 2010 14:36 IST
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Terming the oil spill off the Mumbai coast as a "big disaster", the central government has said that it will not shirk from its responsibility and make every effort to clean the polluted water as soon as possible.

"We have the technology. We will try to clean the water as soon as possible," Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan told reporters on the sidelines of a national conference organised by All India Management Association (AIMA) in New Delhi.

He said the oil spill was "a big disaster" and the Centre was monitoring the entire situation "at the level of Cabinet secretary" and is in touch with the Maharashtra government, which is receiving all necessary guidance from here to tackle the situation.

When asked whether government was thinking to bring some technology from abroad to clean the polluted water, Chavan said, "We will not shirk from our responsibility. If we need to bring technology from abroad, we will do it. It is for the first time that we are facing such a big accident at the sea shore."

To a question how much time it will take to clean the water, Chavan said, "It is difficult to say. Early morning, I heard that oil leakage has stopped. We will try to fight the situation with the best of our ability."

Meanwhile, there were no reports of fresh oil spill from the cargo ship, which collided with another vessel off the Mumbai coast, even as anti-pollution operations are still on to neutralise the oil effect, Coast Guard officials said on Tuesday.

"No fresh oil spill was reported ever since the fuel stopped trickling out from one of the merchant vessel Chitra's tanks," said S P S Basra, IG, Coast Guard (Western Region).

"It is good to see no further spill but our anti-pollution operation is underway today as well. Wherever we are finding thick oil patches, we are spraying chemical dispersals to neutralise the oil effect," he said, adding that there was no further tilting of the vessel.

However, the traffic suspended at Mumbai harbour is yet to be restored, Basra added.

Two Panamanian cargo ships, MSC Chitra and MV Khalija-111, collided on Saturday off the Mumbai coast causing an oil spill from one of the vessels. However, no casualties were reported.

Thirty three crew members, including two Pakistanis, were rescued following the incident.

Six coastguard vessels and a helicopter with anti-pollution dispersal spray systems were pressed into service to contain the oil spill.

Atleast 31 containers with hazardous chemicals, including organo-phosphorous pesticides, sodium hydrochloride and pyrethroid pesticides are on board and quite a few of them might have tumbled into the sea and their contents leaked, a coast guard official had said.

More than 300 containers had hurled into the water.

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre authorities have been asked not to use sea water for cooling purposes at the premier atomic establishment, the official added.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan had also undertaken an aerial survey of the affected area on Monday and advised people against fishing in the affected area as marine life around the city was bound to be affected by the oil slick.

Meanwhile, the coastal districts of Maharashtra have been put on alert as the oil slick has spread to Alibaug and Uran areas, and also close to Elephanta caves amid concerns that it may also damage the rich mangrove belt along the coastline.

Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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