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Oil Spill in Ennore, Tamil Nadu

Why is it in the news?

  • The Kosasthalaiyar River in Ennore, Tamil Nadu, has experienced an oil spill as a consequence of the aftermath of Cyclone Michaung.


Kosasthalaiyar River

·       The river originates near Pallipattu in Thiruvallur district, Tamil Nadu.

·       It is a 136-kilometre-long river flowing through the Chennai metropolitan area.

·       Drains into the Bay of Bengal.

About Oil Spill

  • An oil spill is an accidental release of liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, particularly marine areas. It often occurs from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs, or wells.
  • Oil spills can involve refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as by-products like heavier fuels used by large ships, including bunker fuel or other oily refuse.


International Incidents

  • Venezuela (2020): Oil leakage from the El Palito refinery.
  • Mauritius (2020): Japanese ship MV Wakashio carrying fuel oil split into two parts near Blue Bay Marine Park.
  • Russia: Notable Arctic incident (Norilsk diesel fuel spill).


Indian Incidents

  • Chennai (2017): A significant oil spill disaster occurred when two ships collided off Kamarajar Port Limited’s harbour.
  • Sundarban (2014): Oil spill in the Sela River in Bangladesh raised environmental concerns for India.
  • ONGC Uran Plan (2013): Oil leak in the Arabian Sea.
  • Mumbai Coast (2010): Two ships collided, resulting in an 800-tonne oil spill.


Damage Caused by Oil Spills

  • Oil spills have severe repercussions on various species of fish, birds, mammals, and other marine life. The oil can coat and damage the fur or feathers of animals, making it difficult for them to swim or fly.
  • Coastal habitats, including beaches, marshes, and mangroves, can be contaminated, leading to long-term damage.
  • Contaminated waters can reduce fish populations and damage fishing gear, affecting the livelihoods of communities dependent on these activities.
  • In the case of Ennore, fishermen have been unable to venture into fishing as the fish catch smells of oil.
  • Coastal areas affected by oil spills often experience a decline in tourism due to the negative perception of polluted beaches and waters, leading to economic losses for local businesses and communities.
  • The chemicals present in oil, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pose health risks to humans. Inhalation of fumes, ingestion of contaminated seafood, or direct skin contact with oil can lead to respiratory problems, skin irritation, and long-term health effects.



International Conventions

  • MARPOL (1973): The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships emphasizes international efforts to curb oil spills.
  • International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (1990): Provides a framework for international cooperation and mutual assistance in preparing for and responding to major oil pollution incidents.


Indian Initiatives

  • National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP): Promulgated in 1996 and revised in 2015, it aims at effective reporting, prompt response to prevent, control, and combat oil pollution, and ensuring adequate protection to public health and the marine environment.
  • Merchant Shipping Act, 1958: This act grants the central government the power to give notice to the owner if a ship is not in compliance with prescribed rules. Failure to comply can result in the conviction of the person for an offense.
  • Indian Coast Guard: Functions as the Central Coordinating Authority for responding to oil spills in Indian waters.
  • National Level Pollution Response Exercise (NATPOLREX-IX): Recently conducted by the Indian Coast Guard off Vadinar, Gujarat.


Control Measures for Oil Spills

  • Bioremediation: The use of specific microorganisms to remove toxic or harmful substances. For instance, TERI has developed Oil Zapper Bacteria, which can degrade oil quickly.
  • Oil Booms: Temporary floating barriers used to contain marine spills, protect the environment, and assist in recovery.
  • Dispersants: Chemicals sprayed upon the spill with the help of aircraft and boats, aiding in the natural breakdown of oil components.



  • Collaborative efforts among the central coordinating agency, ship owners, oil handling facilities, and other stakeholders are required to prepare for and combat marine spills.
  • Ensuring regular maintenance of industrial equipment and adherence to standard operation and safety procedures can contribute to avoiding such disasters.

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