Oil spill in Hooghly river threatens marine life, says activist

Kolkata, Nov 26 (IANS) The oil spill from a damaged container ship stranded in Hooghly river after colliding with another vessel in West Bengal’s South 24-Parganas district is threatening marine life, an environmental activist claimed Friday.

Environmental activist Subhas Dutta, also a member of the Ganga River Monitoring Committee, claimed that about 50 tonnes of oil has already been spilled and mixed with the river water.

‘I have informed both the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) authorities and the state Pollution Control Board (PCB) to take necessary steps to prevent the pollution,’ he said.

‘We have also requested both the authorities to pull up the vessel owner for polluting the river and demand compensation for the fishermen.’

The Girbraltar registered ship Tiger Spring was severely damaged after it was hit by Bahamas registered container ship Green Valley Tuesday at the confluence of Hooghly and Rupnarayan rivers at Nurpur.

The Colombo-bound Tiger Spring was going back through Rangaphala channel after unloading its containers at Kolkata Dock System (KDS) when it was hit in the middle by the Green Valley, damaging that vessel and causing oil spill.

‘As the oil spill has threatened marine life and the fishermen are incurring huge losses, I have lodged a complaint with the Ramnagar police station, demanding compensation for the affected fishermen,’ Dutta told IANS.

Dutta added that Coast Guard officials had told him that Tiger Spring was stuck in the silt, and may break any time. ‘So the oil stored in its tank and containers should be emptied at the earliest,’ he said.

‘In case of accidents, the victims or the affected get compensation from the insurance coverage of vehicles or vessels. Then why wouldn’t the fishermen get it, when the vessel is polluting the environment and endangering their livelihood?’ he asked.

Biswajit Mukherjee, senior law officer with the PCB, said: ‘We have collected water samples from the Hooghly river. Unless the tests are completed, we will not be able to ascertain the extent of damage.’

KoPT chairman Madan Lala Meena said: ‘The owner of the vessel Tiger Spring had been asked to unload the containers and pump out the oil from its tank. Our officials have already started pumping out the oil from the tank and unloading the containers.’

‘We are also concerned about the river pollution. About 15 tonnes of oil might have spilled and get mixed with the river water. We even took Dutta with us to the spot to show him what the exact picture is.’

‘The repair work of the ship is yet to start as modern equipment and spares will be required. Experts from Holland are examining the vessel and are yet to suggest how we can repair it,’ Meena told IANS over phone.

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