Oil Spill Near Chennai, India, Threatens Wildlife

Thousands of volunteers and Indian Coast Guard personnel were working on Friday to clean sludge
from shores near the southern city of Chennai nearly a week after an oil spill that activists said could have dire repercussions for wildlife and fishery.
Officials disagreed about who was to blame for the failure to contain the spill. Commandant Rahul Dev Sharma, a local spokesman for the Coast Guard, said on Friday that at least 20 tons of oil had leaked into the Bay of Bengal.
The spill occurred before dawn Saturday after two tankers, one empty and the other carrying petroleum, collided about 1.5 nautical miles from Chennai, Commandant Sharma said.
Port officials noticed oil on the water’s surface that evening, but thought it was a minor leak from one of the ships, said Atulya Mishra, environment secretary for the state of Tamil Nadu, which includes Chennai. But by Sunday, oil was billowing toward the coast, most of it collecting at the fishing village, Radhakrishna Nagar, Mr. Mishra said. About 25 miles of coastline were affected, he said.
“Clearing the sea of the sludge is a never-ending process,” Mr. Mishra said. “We have 2,000 people on the ground manually trying to empty the sea of the sludge, and also machines.”

M. D. Dayalan, president of the Chennai-based Indian Fishermen’s Association, said many of the estimated 100,000 fishermen in villages along the coast have had to leave the area.

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