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Look: Mystery tarballs clog Mumbai’s beaches

Nithin Belle /Mumbai
Filed on September 17, 2021


(Supplied)


(Supplied)


(Supplied)

Mumbaikars grapple with ecological hazards as officials are clueless about their origin.

Mumbaikars have been experiencing a strange mystery for years during monsoon. The people have found that heavy torrential rains trigger strong currents in the sea and vast quantities of tarballs get washed ashore on the city’s beaches.

Earlier, the natural phenomenon was restricted to Juhu, one of the most popular beaches in northwest Mumbai.

However, there has been a discernible change this year.

The tarballs have washed to other beaches of the metropolis and worse even to other places along the Konkan coast from Ratnagiri in Maharashtra in the south to parts of south Gujarat, which is located north of Mumbai. There have been reports of some beaches in Goa also experiencing tarballs being washed ashore.

Shaunak Modi, director, Coastal Conservation Foundation, a Juhu resident, told Khaleej Times that the tarballs have been getting washed to the beach every monsoon since 2017.

“Thousands of tonnes of tar balls get washed ashore. It’s a major challenge to clear the beach,” he said.

This year has been one of the worst. Though the problem has got aggravated, Modi said that the authorities have still not identified the source and whether it is crude or processed oil. Some suspect it is leakage from an offshore oil rig.

“We filed a complaint in 2019, but nothing has emerged,” he said.The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had taken samples, but the reports are yet to be released.The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) deploys teams of workers with machines to clear the beaches.However, government and civic bodies have still not been able to identify the sources of the tarballs.

Officials refused to comment on the issue.

Juhu is the biggest recipient of the tarballs, but Cuffe Parade in south Mumbai has experienced it.

Devendra Tandel, who heads a fishermen’s body, said the authorities responded quickly and cleared up the mess in Cuffe Parade because of the ongoing Ganesh festival.

The BMC has cleared more than 20,000 kilograms of tar balls from Juhu and Versova beaches over the past fortnight.

But the problem persists as they continue being washed ashore every day.

The National Institute of Oceanography, which is a part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has been studying the tarballs phenomenon for around a decade. Some of its research papers traced them to offshore drilling rigs in Bombay High and others to bunker oil and water discharged into the sea by ships and other vessels.

Environmentalists are concerned that tarballs destroy marine life, especially those found along the coastline and even on the beaches. “Small fish, crabs, and other creatures found along the coastline are destroyed by these tarballs,” Modi said.

Mumbaikars, who jog along the beaches in the mornings or stroll along in the evenings, are having a tough time because they are unable to access the sand because of the growing tarballs.

nithin@khaleejtimes.com

Nithin Belle





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