THE ENVIRONMENT Ministry is likely to issue a showcause notice to the authorities at Kamarajar port (Ennore port near Chennai), asking why the port should not be penalised for failure to effectively control the fallout of the oil spill last month. The ministry’s zonal office in Bengaluru and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have submitted separate reports on the oil spill, which took place following a collision between two ships early on January 28. Both reports have found that the response to the crisis was not adequate. A ministry official said prima facie it seemed that the port did not act fast enough, and did not deploy the kind of resources that were required to deal with the crisis.
“The ministry is studying the two reports,” the official said. “It does seem that the port was wanting in its efforts. The exact course of action is yet to be decided but it is very likely that a showcause notice would be served on the port.” While seeking environmental clearances, ports have to submit detailed action plans and commit themselves to creating the necessary facilities and infrastructure to deal with disasters, including oil spills. The Kamarajar Port, which received an environmental clearance for its expansion in December 2014, had also submitted a similar undertaking.
The report by Environment Ministry’s southern zonal office has said that the port did not fulfil some of these commitments. In particular, the response to the oil spill was delayed because the port authorities thought it was outside their area of jurisdiction. The physical barrier that is supposed to be dropped around the leaking ship to prevent the oil from spreading was also not effective. The ministry official said that it was unlikely that environmental clearance to the port would be withdrawn but a penalty could certainly be slapped for not observing strict environmental norms.
It has also asked the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) to make a detailed assessment of the extent of ecological and biodiversity damage due to the oil spill and submit its report within a month.