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Vasco Bay & Goa’s coast sitting on ENVIRONMENTAL time BOMB

18 May 2017 05:40am IST
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18 May 2017 05:40am IST
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MV QING, with 350 tonnes of oil, and the grounding of floating WISL dry dock, increase risk of oil spillage; gross negligence by authorities, claim environmentalists

Believe it or not, but not only the Vasco Bay but whole of Goa’s coast is apparently sitting on environmental time bomb with waters around Western India Shipyard Limited(WISL) turning into a graveyard for ships and marine installations. Besides, such incidents of vessels getting grounded are also threatening the marine ecology to a severe extent, and authorities concerned have been dragging their feet to resolve the issues.

It may be recalled that last year on June 29, a cruise liner MV QING, which was anchored at WISL yard for over two years due to pending repairs, started tilting precariously after water ingressed into it during incessant rains last monsoons. Following the incident, the South Goa District Disaster Management Authority (SGDDMA), Indian Coast Guard and police, swung into action to save the vessel from tilting on one side. The South Goa collector Swapnil Naik, as the Chairman of SGDDMA, even issued orders under the provision of the Disaster Management Act, with directions to Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) to remove the oil contained in the grounded cruise vessel M V Qing. However, all attempts made did not succeed. Since then and till today the cruise liner, which has partially submerged into the waters from bottom and contains 350 tonnes of oil, could anytime trigger serious marine environment disaster, like last year when oil started spilling from the grounded cruise vessel.

Ironically when the authorities concerned were trying to find out a solution to salvage MV QING, another incident reported at WISL on Wednesday (May 17) when the floating dry dock owned by WISL, anchored very close to the cruise liner, also got grounded from one side. Though this dry dock does not have much oil in it, MPT sources confirmed that the dry dock might have about 100 litres of oil inside the floating dry dock (inside the pumps). MPT, however, clarified that they have also initiated actions to control any oil spills from the dry dock.

Surprisingly this is the fourth time in last 12 months the floating dry dock, which is left unattended by the WISL management, has tilted, but this time the dry dock finally got grounded from one side. Ironically despite WISL workers warning MPT, WISL management and other concerned agencies finally the dry dock which was giving repeated distress signals got grounded on Wednesday.

Taking serious note of past such incidents and the mishap of dry dock reported on Wednesday, the citizens as well as environmentalists from the State have raised serious concerns over the threat to marine environment due to grounded cruise liner and floating dry dock.  

“There are so many pressures on Vasco bay and Zuari estuary. This area is extremely rich in fish and marine ecology and is habitat of rare species. It is sad to note that the oil from the cruise liner is yet to be removed and now as the dry dock also got grounded the risk to marine environment has turned very high. We feel that this has to be treated as gross negligence and people responsible should be punished,” said Environment activist Abhijeet Prabhudesai.

Environment Activist Advocate Savio J F Correia who is out of country but has been keeping a close watch on the developments taking place at MPT, said “If there is any oil spill from both the grounded vessels then it is bound to cause irreparable damage to our fragile marine life, particularly several protected species. It would be a death blow to our traditional fishermen. Today’s development of dry dock is disturbing. Goa is one the verge of an ecological disaster and the authorities responsible are doing nothing. I feel that district collector should initiate emergency procedures to prevent a catastrophe in conjunction with pollution control board and Coast Guard,” he demanded.

Likewise the citizens, even the MPT authorities, are worried and fear of pollution to marine environment due to possible oil spill. Though the port authorities have procured 1000 metres length oil boom and two water pumping units to any prevent marine environmental disaster due to oil spillage from MV QING as well as from floating dry dock it is a big question whether efforts from MPT or the state government authorities would be enough to control oil spillage.

 “It is true that the task of removing oil from MV QING which WISL management was supposed to carry out was not executed as they failed to come forward, MPT had to take the lead in preventing pollution. In the meantime MPT has filed a case before High Court seeking solution in the issue. To our information high court tried to auction MV QING twice but even after completing bidding formalities, the highest bidder did not pay money and the vessel is yet to be sold by the court. We have highlighted about the issue to the highest level as even we want solution for the issue,” MPT Chairman I Jeyakumar said.

He further said that like last year, even there is some fear about the possible oil spill from MV QING vessel during forthcoming monsoon. “This vessel is submerged into water partially and huge quantity of water (30 times more than oil) has already got mixed with oil contained in the vessel. It requires huge money to remove the water mixed with oil and then to dispose the same scientifically and that is the main reason why bidders backed out after inspecting the vessel. Considering the danger during monsoons, we have already advised Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) and other agencies to take necessary steps. MPT and WISL have been operating in the land leased out by MPT; we are coordinating and have been taking precautionary measures by keeping our machinery on standby to control any possible oil pollution,” he added

What is important to note is whether the authorities would wake up before it’s too late and take corrective measures or would allow such vessels to spill oil naturally and then to act after the marine environment gets polluted.

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