Over 20 km of Chennai's coastline has been polluted by a deadly oil spill and environmentalists have predicted more damage in the coming weeks.
Hundreds of people are engaged in cleaning the coast. But who will pay for the cost of cleaning operations?
The cost will be borne by the polluter, says the Coast Guard. In this case, that would be oil tanker MT Dawn Kancheepuram, which is owned by Darya Ship Management Private Limited.
"The polluter has to pay for the damages," said Mr RD Sharma, the Public Relations Officer at Chennai Coast Guard Office. "The Coastguard has informed the owners that they will have to ensure the sea is the way it was before the oil spill. They are responsible for the damage along the shoreline and will have to pay for the clean-up," he adds. TNM further spoke to Kamarajar port authorities, who confirmed the same.
Efforts to clean the black sludge that has washed onto the Chennai coast has been underway for the last 5 days. Close to 70 tonnes of oil spill waste has been cleared following the combined efforts of the Coast Guard, port authorities, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board workers, NGOs and fishermen. Aquatic life has been affected following the oil spill, with dead fish washing up to the shore. In addition to this, environmentalists have raised concerns about the damaging effects the oil could have on the microscopic inter-species fauna that lives with between the sand granules on the beach.
Multiple attempts by TNM to contact Darya Management, regarding their responsibility in the clean-up went unanswered.
Fishermen demand compensation
For the 18 fishing villages located around Ennore, life has come to a grinding halt. Fishermen who used to earn close to Rs.1000 a day, are now witnessing unwillingness amongst customers to buy their catch.
"They must compensate us for the loss of our livelihood," says SA Vignesh, chief of the Meenavar Makkal Munnani Katchi and a fisherman himself. "We will not be able to sell our fish for at least a month. Just pay us the money that we would have earned in this period. "
According to the Coast Guard, "Compensation to fishermen will happen subsequent to the cleaning of the shore." But this assurance, does little to alleviate the fears of those who depend on the sea for a living.
"The ship will compensate the Government for the damages. But after that,the State has to ensure that we get the money that we deserve. We don't know when this will even happen," says Vignesh.
Vignesh's scepticism comes shortly after the Madras High Court High Court's directions to the Centre and State, asking them to take appropriate action against both ships involved in the incident. The State Government, in response, had said that a notice had already been issued to MT Dawn Kancheepuram.
The Fishermen association's petition sought that the 2 ships that collided near the Kamarajor port in Chennai not be allowed to leave Indian waters. Petitioners claimed that if the ships were allowed to leave, then they would not pay for the cleaning operations and wouldn't provide compensation to fishermen whose livelihood has been affected. The Court's orders came while hearing a petition filed by the All India fishermen's welfare association.