Mauritius oil spill: ‘environmental emergency’ declared after a major leak

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Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, a wildly popular tourist destination, has declared a ‘state of environmental emergency’ following the oil leak from a stranded Japanese ship near the nation’s shore.

The Japanese ship (MV Wakashio) was registered in Panama and was en-route to Brazil from China when it hit the land near a marine park in Mauritius. The area where the ship had been lying afloat is called Pointe d’Esny.

The heavy bulk carrier hit the land a few days ago when its crew were evacuated. The otherwise empty container had around 4000 tonnes of oil which is the main source of the crisis.

The japanese tanker leaked tonnes of oil in the pristine waters of the Indian ocean (Image courtesy of @LicypriyaK via Twitter)

As the vessel began forming cracks in the hull, a large amount of oil began seeping out into the pristine ocean waters.

The prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth said: “Our country doesn’t have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships, so I have appealed for help from France and president Emmanuel Macron.

Bad weather has made it impossible to act, and I worry about what could happen Sunday when the weather deteriorates.”

The French island nation of Reunion is very near to Mauritius so the government of Mauritius is hopeful for help from their neighbour. France is also one of the leading business partner and foreign investor.

Image courtesy of @Press_MU via Twitter / Mauritius oil spill: ‘environmental emergency’ declared after a major leak

Mauritius has a deep reservoir of corals and other dwindling marine biodiversity. Its economy is heavily dependent on tourism.

The major oil spill that is still persisting is yet another blow to the already critical situation that the nation is facing amidst the pandemic.

This is the second incidence in a month where carriers from other countries are wreaking havoc in countries entirely unrelated to the case. The below footage shows slick waters after the oil spill.

Mauritius oil spill: ‘environmental emergency’ declared after a major leak

The blast in Lebanon also was caused by a container that did not belong to the country. This particular incident of the oil spill has been flagged as an environmental crisis as oil spills are extremely harmful to the marine ecosystem. And they are extremely difficult to cleanse.

“Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’s economy, food security and health,” said Greenpeace Africa’s climate and energy manager Happy Khambule to the Guardian.

A police investigation is also in a way to probe for evidence of possible negligence on the part of the Japanese companies Okiyo Maritime Corporation and Nagashiki Shipping Co Ltd involved in the spill.

Although Mauritius has provisions to tackle oil spills in this case, the oil spill surpasses the limit of 10 metric tonnes. The amount of oil and diesel being oozed out of the stranded ship is far greater than the nation has provision to tackle.

In such a situation, it has to request help from other nations of the Indian Ocean or any nation that is part of the international oil spill response organisations.

It is an unfortunate occurrence that a very ‘sensitive zone’ in the ocean is affected by the oil spill. Hence the Mauritian Government has declared a state of emergency to protect the vulnerable marine biodiversity.

(Cover image courtesy of @Press_MU via Twitter)