“Oil Spill” at Sri Lanka’s Coast

What is the News?

Sri Lanka is preparing for a major oil spill. A burnt-out container ship is sinking outside Colombo’s harbor with nearly 350 tonnes of oil in its fuel tanks. This ship was burning for the last 13 days, causing Sri Lanka’s worst maritime environmental disaster.

What is an Oil Spill?

  • Oil Spill is the contamination of seawater due to an oil pour as a result of an accident or human error.
  • Oil spills into oceans most often are caused by accidents involving tankers, barges, pipelines, refineries, drilling rigs and storage facilities.

Impact of Oil Spill:

Environmental Impact of Oil Spill:
  • Oil spills affect marine life by exposing them to harsh elements and destroying their sources of food and habitat.
  • Oil coating on feathers destroys bird’s abilities like waterproofing and insulation. It also decreases the water repellency of birds feathers, without which they lose their ability to repel cold water.
  • Both birds and mammals can die from hypothermia as a result of oil spills.
  • Birds can also die of overheating as they are not able to lose body heat due to oil coating.
  • Ingested oil can be toxic to affected animals, and damage their habitat and reproductive rate.
Economic Impacts of Oil Spill:
  • It can result in less tourism and commerce on beaches and populated shorelines.
  • The power plants and other utilities that depend on drawing or discharging seawater are severely affected by oil spills.
  • Major oil spills are frequently followed by the immediate suspension of commercial fishing.

Human Impact of Oil Spill:

  • The effects of oil spill on marine life can in turn adversely affect humans. For instance, the contamination of local ecosystems can impact communities that rely on marine ecosystems to survive.
  • Water supplies in surrounding areas are at risk of contamination from oil spills.
  • Fishermen and local ship workers can lose their sources of income. Because now health problems will be associated with exposure to oil such as respiratory damage, decreased immunity, and increased cancer risk.

How are oil spills cleaned? There are a few ways to clean up oil spills including:

  • Skimming: It involves removing oil from the sea surface before it is able to reach the sensitive areas along the coastline.
  • In situ burning: It means burning a particular patch of oil after it has concentrated in one area.
  • Releasing chemical dispersants helps break down oil into smaller droplets. It makes it easier for microbes to consume, and further, break it down into less harmful compounds.
  • Natural actions in aquatic environments such as weathering, evaporation, biodegradation and oxidation can also help reduce the severity of an oil spill. It also accelerates the recovery of an affected area.
  • Sorbents: Various sorbents (e.g., straw, volcanic ash, and shavings of polyester-derived plastic) that absorb the oil from the water are used.
  • Dispersing agents: These are chemicals that contain surfactants or compounds that act to break liquid substances such as oil into small droplets. They accelerate its natural dispersion into the sea.
  • Biological agents: Nutrients, enzymes, or microorganisms such as Alcanivorax bacteria or Methylocella silvestris that increase the rate at which natural biodegradation of oil occurs are added.

Source: The Hindu

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