An unknown ship emptied bilge (which included oil from the engine) off the coast of Tamil Nadu. A 3KM stretch of beach along the ECR is now soaking in the oil. This is not just a health hazard but an environmental disaster as well. The Hindu and New Indian Express have both covered the slick that seems to have taken place around Jan 01, 2010. Unfortunately, it looks like that is where the coverage ends.
This incident proves that when it comes to the environment, lip-service is the preferred approach within the Indian media. An oil slick, irrespective of size, should have attracted a more vigorous response from the media. Where they hung-over with their coverage of 3 idiots and the New Year? What if the clean-up was sponsored and part of a media Green-wash...would the slick have provoked collective outrage?
We still do not know if the slick has had an immediate impact on local health and the environment. We do not know, from existing reports, if the government is doing anything about either cleaning the slick or tracking down the offending vessel. No spokesperson of the government either at the centre or at the state has been questioned by the English media. (I will be happy to stand corrected on this if somebody can provide me with a link).
The impact zone appears to be fishing villages dotted along the East Coast Road. Would the media response have been more pro-active if this slick had happened on the Worli or Juhu coast?
- G K Vasan is the minister for shipping in the central government and lives in Chennai (not far from the spill site). I wonder if he is doing anything about bringing the owners of the offending vessel to book?
- Jai Ram Ramesh our minister for Environment and Forests is probably still recovering from the COP15 disaster that he helped engineer.
I am hoping that the Tamil press would have done a far better job in giving the slick the negative publicity it deserves. Based on the way the English media (both electronic and print) are approaching the story it looks like the slick will be buried on the beaches.
On a side note - Dumping of bilge close to the coast line is illegal. Does this mean that ships can dump such toxic wastes in high seas?