Oil Spills Call for Le­gal, Tech­ni­cal Fix

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

The re­sponse to the oil spill off the Chen­nai coast on Jan­uary 28 when two ships, MT BW Maple and MT Dawn Kanchipu­ram, col­lided has ex­posed the lack of pre­pared­ness and ac­count­abil­ity on the part of In­dian agen­cies. The slow and in­ef­fec­tive re­sponse also re­veals a lack of ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the en­vi­ron­men­tal and pub­lic health fall­out of ac­ci­dents/in­ci­dents of this na­ture and of or­gan­i­sa­tional pre­pared­ness.

The irony is that since the mid-1990s, In­dia has a Na­tional Oil Spill Dis­as­ter Con­tin­gency Plan. The plan is clear in set­ting out the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the Coast Guard, state and cen­tral gov­ern­ments and lo­cal author­i­ties. The Coast Guard is the nodal agency for the security of ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters and the ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone, in­clud­ing of the coastal en­vi­ron­ment. It not enough to have a con­tin­gency plan, the Coast Guard needs to have the com­pe­tence to re­spond to dev­as­tat­ing emer­gen­cies such as oil spills. The fo­cus needs to be on mon­i­tor­ing move­ment, aug­ment­ing in­for­ma­tion col­lec­tion, proper train­ing and en­sur­ing that the Coast Guard is well-equipped to han­dle such sit­u­a­tions. To this end, the Coast Guard must be sup­ported through ap­pro­pri­ate statu­tory back­ing and proper fund­ing. Par­lia­ment must pass the amend­ments to the Mer­chant Ship­ping Act to en­sure com­pli­ance to the In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion on Civil Li­a­bil­ity for Bunker Oil Pol­lu­tion Dam­age 2001. This will ease the dif­fi­culty in ob­tain­ing com­pen­sa­tion for pol­lu­tion caused by bunker oil spill or leak­age from ships other than tankers. It will im­prove re­cov­ery of costs on clean-up op­er­a­tion in the even­tu­al­ity of oil spills.

In­dia’s coast will carry ris­ing vol­umes of trade. Greater eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in the coastal ar­eas will re­quire bet­ter pro­tec­tion, both of coastal ecosys­tems and the peo­ple who live there.

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