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    Chennai Oil Spill: State Government Under Fire for Attempt to Downplay Disaster

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    Two reports contradict Tamil Nadu government claim that the oil spill was limited to 20 tonnes. Scientists warn of grave ecological impact.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Director General of Shipping (DGS) has estimated the oil spill near Chennai could be double the 20 tonnes declared by the state. The DGS has said heavy damage to MT Dawn Kanchipuram, one of the two ships that collided leading to the spill, which leads it to surmise that the spill could be over 40 tonnes.

    Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Paneerselvam visited the site of clean-up operations in the state Sunday. He had said that 90 percent of the sludge clearing had been done and that the oil spill was estimated at 20 tonnes. But the DGS assessment differs sharply with the state’s official version. The ships, MT Dawn Kanchipuram and MT MW Maple, collided outside the Kamarajar Harbour on January 28.

    A report from the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) also noted that 40 tonnes of oil sludge and 27 tonnes of oil mixture and water were removed so far from the waters off Chennai.

    Environmental activists and opposition political parties have accused the government of being lackadaisical in managing the disaster and of downplaying it. Local news reports said local fishermen and volunteer groups took it upon themselves to contain the spill due to the lack of effective machinery and a proper plan. It was reported that nearly 300 local volunteers and Coast Guard workers were rummaging for oil in the sea using buckets.

    Citizens used social media to criticize the authorities for their ineptitude. 

    Environmentalists feel the oil spill’s ecological impact could be massive. More than 40 Olive Ridley turtles, a species of sea turtles classified vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, were found washed up on the shore. The overall effect on the area’s marine life is unknown at this stage but there is widespread speculations that it could have harmed many species of marine life as oil contains several hydrocarbons, alkanes, xylenes and cycloalkanes, among other chemicals, that are known to be toxic for fish. Marine biologists fear the presence of such acutely toxic chemicals in fish could prove fatal to animals up the food chain, including humans.

    Local media reports said local fishermen are bearing the brunt of the oil spill as they are finding it difficult to wade their boats through the sludge. Sales of sea food has gone down as locals fear the catch maybe contaminated.

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