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Topic : Oil Spills

GS-3 Mains : Environment

Revision Notes

Oil Spills: A Threat to Marine Environment and Coastal Communities

Why in News?

  • The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) conducted a seminar and mock drill in West Bengal to address the critical challenges of combating oil spills at sea. This highlights the ongoing concern about oil spills and the need for effective response measures.

Understanding Oil Spills:

  • An oil spill is the release of liquid petroleum hydrocarbons into the environment, primarily affecting marine areas.
  • Sources include tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs, and wells.
  • Spilled substances can be refined petroleum products (gasoline, diesel) or heavier fuels used by large ships.

Recent Oil Spills:

  • International: Venezuela (2020), Mauritius (2020), Russia (2020), Deepwater Horizon (2010)
  • India: Chennai (2017), Sundarbans (2014), Mumbai (2010), Uran (2013)

Devastating Impacts:

  • Environmental Damage: Oil harms marine life (fish, birds, mammals) by coating their fur/feathers, hindering movement and survival.
  • Habitat Destruction: Contaminated beaches, marshes, and mangroves suffer long-term damage.
  • Fisheries & Aquaculture: Reduced fish populations, damaged fishing gear, and contaminated seafood impact livelihoods. (e.g., Ennore fishermen)
  • Tourism: Oil-polluted beaches and waters deter tourists, leading to economic losses for coastal communities.
  • Human Health: Exposure to oil’s toxic chemicals (PAHs) can cause respiratory problems, skin irritation, and long-term health effects.

International Efforts:

  • MARPOL Convention (1973): Promotes international cooperation to prevent oil pollution from ships.
  • OPRC Convention (1990): Provides a framework for international cooperation in preparing for and responding to major oil spills.

India’s Initiatives:

  • National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP): Maintained and implemented by the ICG. Aims for:
    • Effective spill reporting
    • Prompt response to prevent, control, and combat oil pollution
    • Protecting public health, welfare, and the marine environment
    • Utilizing science and technology for prevention, management, and cleanup
  • Merchant Shipping Act, 1958: Empowers the government to take action against ships not complying with prescribed rules.

Control Measures:

  • Bioremediation: Using microorganisms to break down oil contaminants (e.g., TERI’s Oil Zapper Bacteria).
  • Oil Booms: Temporary floating barriers to contain spills, protecting the environment and aiding recovery.
  • Dispersants: Chemicals sprayed on spills to break down oil components, accelerating natural degradation.

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG):

  • Established in 1977, a maritime law enforcement and search and rescue agency.
  • Jurisdiction: India’s territorial waters, contiguous zone, and exclusive economic zone.
  • Parent Agency: Ministry of Defence
  • Headquarters: New Delhi

Source : https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=2021396#:~:text=ICG%20conducts%20Pollution%20Response%20Seminar,combating%20oil%20spills%20at%20sea&text=The

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