Oil Spill and Its Environmental Impact - Seeker's Thoughts

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Oil Spill and Its Environmental Impact

Amid several catastrophic events in 2020, the island of Mauritius is facing an environmental emergency as a wrecked ship of leaking tons of diesel and oil into the Indian Ocean.
A bulk of carrier struck a coral, reef off its coast in late July, the accident was so bad that has led to a large oil spill visible from even space.

According to the Swaddle Indian news sites. The ship was owned by Japanese-owned MV Wakashio, hit a coral reef off Mauritius’ south coast, near pointe d’Esny, on July 25.  In the weeks since, a crack has appeared on its hull, meaning that the ship’s cargo is in jeopardy, a shipment that includes 4,290 tons which are 3,894 metric tons of low sulfur fuel oil, 228 tons which are 207 metric tons of diesel and 99 tons (90 metric tons) of lubricant oil which the ship was carrying from China to Brazil.

Russia Oil Spill

What are the impacts of the oil spill?
Oil spills screw the marine life and it can be very dangerous for the environment. Up to two-thirds of an oil spill can evaporate in the first few days, however before the light toxic compounds evaporate, they kill fish and animal life and pose harm to future generations.
It can stay long in the environment. The thick oil also washes ashore creating reservoirs on the beaches of toxic chemicals which can be very harmful to the environment.

The immediate effect of an oil slick is the mass death of fish, turtles, and other precious species underwater. The oil forms a coating on the surface, which reduces the amount of light and oxygen passing into the water. This suffocates marine life.

The oil destabilizes the entire marine food chain, beginning with plankton, microscopic organisms that live in ocean depths, being deprived of the sunlight they need to make food. The death of plankton means death for marine animals that feed on them and so on up the food chain to humans.

Those toxic chemicals leached from the oil and some of the oil itself sink to the seabed, damaging coral reefs and endangering the fish.

The sandy beaches and the shorelines in coastal areas may also be an indirect victim of oil-water pollution. The oil-contaminated water is usually swept across the shoreline by the waves in high tides. This makes the beaches dirty and unsafe for the human population as well. Thus, coastal areas are continuously contaminated due to oil pollution.

Oil spills and their pollution severely degraded the water quality on a long-term basis. Being insoluble in water, oily water always exists as a bi-layer. Also, at the shorelines, the current of waves might even turn the oily water into a turbid oil-water emulsion (wherein the oil and water exist as a single turbid phase due to constant mechanical mixing forces). This degrades the quality of water further.

Moreover, the tourism industry can be greatly affected by oil spills and oil pollution. Due to increasing oil pollution ion beaches and shorelines, recreational activities of tourists like boating, swimming, diving, adventure sports are taking a back seat. Unhealthy and unclean water can repel tourists from undertaking these activities completely.

How such horrible incidents can be prevented and control?
Authenticity and quality should not be compromised when it comes to carrier ships and oil tankers in marine waters. Their mechanical parts and equipment need to pass strict quality checks to be proven safe against any oil spill hazards. Extra attention is required while installing the pipes in tankers. Any probable leakage issue should be eliminated before it sets out on the sea.

The worldwide government should treat the oil spill seriously and come up with a suitable disaster management plan to control such accidents in the future. Local environmental agencies should also take measures for the recovery of polluted water bodies. A plan should be developed to direct the restoration process and incorporate things like coral and plantation reconstruction, shoreline improvements, and transport restrictions across water bodies.

Most importantly bio mediation can also be used, when bacteria are used to clean up oil spills in the marine environment, it is termed as bioremediation.
Bio mediation is a process that uses natural decomposers and plans enzymes to treat the contaminated water.

Skimmers need to be employed in marine water to monitor and control oil spills. Skimmers are boats that help scoop the spilled oil from the surface of the polluted water. This way immediate action can be taken in case of accidents to avoid long-term damage in serious proportions.

Proper laws and regulations have operational since long in most of the countries, however, still, oil pollution has been on the rise. Such accidents are becoming a new normal. There is a need to build teams that facilitated immediate clean-up of the mess that any such incidents might cause.

Laws rules should be implemented on ground level and facilities should be checked regularly for proper maintenance and documentation of their procedures for discharge as well as loading. Mock drills should be mandatory for all vessels, so as to be prepared to clean up oil spills in emergency situations.

Oil spills in water bodies can be cleaned up the chemical way. Using sorbent (it’s kind of sponges which absorb oil) oil spills can be cleaned, also chemical dispersants effectively break down oil into its corresponding chemical constituents.
Physical methods can be used to employ for cleaning up spills. Vacuum trucks can such up spilled oil from the beaches and surface of the water.

Shovels and road machinery can be used to clean up oil on the beach. Oil contaminated sand and gravel can be picked up and moved away so that the waves hitting the shores do not pick up the oily residue to cause oil water pollution. Floating barriers called booms can be also be used to prevent oil pollution. This is usually done by planting a large boom around a leaking oil tanker to collect it before it causes massive water contamination.

What are the international efforts to curb the oil spill?
In 1973 International Maritime Organization adopted the international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships (MARPOL). After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, in 1989, 90 countries under the auspices of the IMO drew up an emergency system to deal with spills.

The international convention on oil pollution preparedness, response, and cooperation in 1990, it details the steps to be taken to clean up slicks and required ships to prepare pollution emergency plans. Its limits oil company liability to the US $80 million, though cleaning up the Exxon Valdez spill cost more than $2 billion. But, the 1990 convention provides special fund to be set up from contributions from shipping companies.
At last, the IMO rules that by July 1993, all tankers must have double hulls for additional safety, and all single-hulled ships must be phased out by 1995.

Oil spill accidents are ruining the environment and the water bodies, and the impact of such accidents are prolonged; mostly ever country uses water bodies for their trading. There is an urgent need to address and control such disastrous accidents in the future. The year 2020 already brought pandemic and other disasters. According to a catalog on Wikipedia.

 This is not the only happen in 2020. Atlas eight other big spills have happened so far this year. This list includes the May 29th, disaster, when Russia declared an emergency after 22,000 tons, of oil spilled into the Arctic Circle making it one of the largest oil spills in modern Russia. Therefore this is the time when the world countries need to learn that we don’t have planet B and we have to protect our environment and keep our mother nature pure and beautiful.

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