Oil spill off Mumi coast: GTl seeks MoEF reply

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has sought replies of the Centre and the owner of Panama-flagged cargo vessel M V Rak, which sank off Mumbai coast last year, on a plea for compensation for damages caused to the marine ecology due to the oil spill.

The Tribunal issued notices to Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Maharashtra Government, Mumbai Maritime Board, the ship`s owner Delta Shipping Marine Services, SA for the environmental damages caused, also due to the dumping of 60,000 metric tonnes coal from the ship into the sea.

Adani Enterprises Ltd, to whom the coal was to be delivered, for a thermal plant in Gujarat, was also asked to respond to the plea by an environmentalist for computation of the damages.

The Tribunal directed that the notice to Delta Shipping Marine Services, SA, should be served through Panama Embassy and posted the matter for hearing on July 20. The orders came on a plea by Samir Mehta, a Mumbai-based environmentalist, who did not quantify the actual loss and the compensation.

The plea filed through advocate Rahul Chaudhary sought directions to authorities to submit a report on the damage caused to the environment and marine ecology and the probable cost of its restoration and said the quantification of compensation be undertaken thereafter.

Seeking compensation on "the polluter pays principle," the petitioner said the companies should bear the cost on account of the harm and destruction to the environment, marine ecology, public property and the mangroves due to the oil spill and the coal dumping from the ship that sank.

M V Rak had sank 20 nautical miles off the South Mumbai coast in the Arabian Sea on August 4, 2011. The cargo ship carried around 290 tons of fuel oil in its tank, 50 tons of diesel on-board and 60,000 tons of coal for Adani Enterprises Ltd`s thermal power plant at Dahej in Gujarat.

The petition stated that "in term of the geographical extent, the leaked oil has spread beyond Mumbai to the Raigad district (of Maharashtra)."

It said the oil spill has resulted in damage to mangroves and the marine ecology and the impact due to the sinking of the MV Rak has been two fold – by the oil spill as well as the dumping of 60,000 metric tonnes of coal into the sea.

"The continuous trail of the oil leak from the vessel has been observed up to 12 nautical miles, a very thick oil slick up to one nautical mile and a thick layer of oil up to two nautical miles.

"The impact of the oil spill is now clearly visible on the mangroves of Mumbai. The lower portion of the mangroves at Bandra has turned dark because of a layer of oil," it said.

The petition stated that despite the "visible" impacts the state government has taken the view that the oil seen at Juhu Beach is due to some localised events and not due to oil spill.

"This view has been quoted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in its press brief, which view according to the Applicant is misconceived," it said.

It said the ecological damage due to the oil spill is "bound to have a negative and long term impact on the ecosystem".

The spill has adversely impacted the livelihood of the fishermen and others who depend on the coast for their livelihood and the food, it added.

As per Section 17 (1) of the National Green Tribunal Act, the person responsible for causing an adverse impact to the environment is liable to pay relief and compensation for the damage.