Daily Current Affairs for UPSC

Challenges of Combating Oil Spills

Syllabus - Environment [GS Paper-3]


The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) organized a ‘Pollution Response Seminar and Mock Drill’ in West Bengal to address critical challenges of combating oil spills at sea.

Oil Spill

  • An oil spill is the discharge of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon from tankers, offshore systems, drilling rigs or wells into the environment, specifically marine regions. 
  • Spilled substances: It may be subtle petroleum merchandise, along with fuel and diesel gas, in addition to their by-products — heavier fuels used by massive ships including bunker fuel or oily refuse of any kind.

Past incidences

  • International Incidence: 
      • Venezuela: In 2020 oil leakage from the El Palito refinery in Venezuela.
      • Japanese ship MV Wakashio, wearing fuel oil split into two components close to Blue Bay Marine Park in south-east Mauritius.
      • Russia: Arctic (Norilsk diesel gas spill) Oil Spill
      • Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Gulf of Mexico, 2010
  • Indian incidents:
    • Chennai 2017: Two ships collided off Kamarajar Port Limited’s (KPL) harbor and ended in a prime oil spill catastrophe.
    • Sundarban 2014: Oil spill in Sela River, Bangladesh created an environmental subject for India too.
      • ONGC Uran Plan leaked oil within the Arabian Sea in 2013.
    • Mumbai coast: In 2010  ships collided, inflicting 800 tonnes of the oil spill.

Damage as a result of oil spill 

  • Environmental Impact: Oil spills damage diverse species of fish, birds, mammals, and different marine existence. The oil can coat and damage the fur or feathers of animals, making it difficult for them to swim or fly.
  • Habitat Destruction: Oil can contaminate coastal habitats, together with beaches, marshes, and mangroves, leading to long-term damage. 
  • Fisheries and Aquaculture: Contaminated waters can cause decreased fish populations and harm to fishing equipment, affecting the livelihoods of communities dependent on these activities.
  • In the case of Ennore, fishermen have now not been able to take into fishing as fish seize smells of oil.
  • Tourism: Coastal areas affected by oil spills often revel in a decline in tourism due to the negative perception of polluted beaches and waters. This can result in monetary losses for nearby corporations and groups.
  • Exposure to Toxic Substances: The chemicals found in oil, which includes polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pose fitness risks to human beings. Inhalation of fumes, ingestion of infected seafood, or direct pores and skin contact with oil can cause respiration troubles, pores and skin irritation, and long-term health effects.

International Efforts for coping with Oil Spill

  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL): It was rolled out by way of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 1973 and regarded the need for global coherent efforts for curbing oil spill.
  • International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation 1990: It is the global tool that gives a framework designed to facilitate international cooperation and mutual assistance in getting ready for and responding to major oil pollution incidents.

Indian Efforts for coping with Oil Spill

    • National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP): The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) is responsible for maintaining and imposing the Plan. It was promulgated in 1996 and revised in 2015. Its Objectives are:
  • Effective reporting of spillage
    • Prompt reaction to prevent, control and combat oil pollutants
    • Adequate safety to Public Health and Welfare along with Marine Environment
    • Use of Science and Technology for stopping and managing oil spills and pollutants and residuals.
  • Merchant shipping Act, 1958: The Act, describes the electricity to present a word to the owner, whilst the relevant government is satisfied the supply isn’t always as according to the prescribed rules. After word, if the individual fails to conform, the government can convict the character of an offense.

Control measures for Oil Spills

  • Bioremediation: It refers to using specific microorganisms to cast off any poisonous or dangerous substances
    • TERI has developed Oil Zapper Bacteria that could degrade the oil spill.
  • Oil Booms: They are transient floating obstacles used to contain marine spills, shield the environment, and assist in healing. 
  • Using Dispersants: Dispersal dealers are chemical substances which can be sprayed upon the spill with the help of ships and boats, which aid the natural breakdown of oil components.

Source: The Hindu

UPSC Mains Practice Question

Q.What is oil pollution? What are its impacts on the marine ecosystem? In what way is oil pollution particularly harmful for a country like India? (2023)

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