The Tragedy of Oil Spills

A dark and murky liquid that despicably spreads over the surface of the sea, and prevents any sunlight or oxygen to pass through, killing thousands of aquatic organisms each year – you have guessed right.

An oil spill is the release or leakage of liquid hydrocarbons such as petroleum onto a water body’s surface. Besides affecting oceans the most, it also has a devastating impact on rivers and bays. Oil spills generally occur due to human errors or accidents involving tankers, ships, refineries, etc. A study revealed that 300 gallons of oil can spread to a radius of 160-feet in a 10 minute span!

Depending on the location of the oil spill, its impact on the aquatic environment varies, though it still persists as an imminent threat to the different species that inhabit the ocean. They can be extremely harmful to fish, sea turtles, and fur-bearing animals such as otters whose insulating ability can be affected. Most organisms tend to digest the oil, which has a shocking effect on growth and reproduction rates.

The spill also hinders the delivery of sunlight and oxygen to aquatic life, thus threatening their survival. Oil can also be pushed to the coastline by waves, tides, and water currents. This permits the oil to interact directly with the sand, gravel, and rocks that are commonly found along the shoreline, resulting in pollution and contamination.

On 28th January, 2017, two ships collided two nautical miles off the Kamarajar port in Ennore, causing an oil spill of 251 tonnes. Local authorities surmised the reason to be human fatigue and failure, which led to the massive collision. A large stretch of the Chennai coastline was affected, and most of the fishing activities had to be called off. But the impact of the oil spill  on aquatic life was horrifyingly dreadful. More than a 100 Olive Ridley turtles washed ashore, dead – during their nesting season. The Ennore backwaters where the spill had taken place drains into the Bay of Bengal, providing a path for the pollutants to reach the ocean. It took more than 5000 people to clear the oil spill.

One mistake is all that takes to damage the environment, ecology, and the lives of humans and animals. Technological advancement and improved construction techniques have still not reduced the number and impact of oil spills. Better measures are needed, both from our side and the government.

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