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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Mumbai: 6,000 kg of slimy tarballs removed from Juhu beach over two days

Annual phenomena but unusually large and widespread this year, say experts

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai |
August 6, 2021 8:47:17 pm
This is the fourth consecutive year when the oily deposits have been found at Juhu beach | Photo credit: Shaunak Modi

Black oil-emanating tarballs, ranging from 10 to 20 cm in diameter, have returned to the city’s shoreline over the last few days, with 6,000 kg of the slimy deposits removed from various parts of the Juhu beach on Thursday and Friday.

While deposits of tar along Juhu beach following hightide ingress is common during the monsoon, experts said their volume was unusually large and widespread this year, reaching the Vasai shoreline as well.

This is the fourth consecutive year when the oily deposits have been found at Juhu beach. In 2019, tarballs were also reported at Versova and Dadar beaches as well as on the Marine Drive promenade. Activists have raised concern over the increasing incidence of tarballs washing ashore along the Mumbai coastline.

Director of Coastal Conservation Foundation, Shaunak Modi, who has been documenting marine life along the coast, said, “This is a yearly occurrence and is going on for far too long to be avoided. I hope this is thoroughly investigated.”

Tarballs are dark-coloured sticky balls of oil deposits formed when crude oil floats on the ocean surface. According to a 2017 research paper on ‘Diversity of Bacteria and Fungi Associated with Tarballs: Recent Developments and Future Prospects’ by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), tarballs are formed by the weathering of crude oil in marine environments and are transported from the open sea to the shores by sea currents and waves.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has alerted its staff and the clean-up contractor appointed at various beaches to remove the tarballs post hightide.

Tarballs are dark-coloured sticky balls of oil deposits that form when crude oil floats on the ocean surface | Photo credit: Shaunak Modi

Prithiviraj Chavan, the additional municipal commissioner of K-West ward, said, “We have been removing these tarballs immediately after hightide ingress. The contractor appointed at Juhu beach has been directed to remove these tarballs at the earliest. Till this morning, nearly six metric tonnes (or 6,000 kg) were removed from the beach. When they mix with sand and garbage, it becomes extremely tough to remove them.”

A 2014 research paper had found offshore oil fields as the source of tarballs spotted at four beaches in Gujarat between July 15 and 17 in 2012. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), meanwhile, has said that most of the oil was coming from large cargo vessels, where they have no jurisdiction.

“We have collected samples in past as evidence to be tested for pollutants. But it has been inconclusive. Oil has been coming from large cargo in the deep sea and it gets pushed to the shore during the monsoon due to wind speed and direction. We don’t have a solution or control over the management of ships/cargo. We are at the receiving end. We will monitor the situation on major hightide days and take action viz clean up,” YB Sontakke, the joint director (water quality) of MPCB, said.

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