After Cyclone Michaung Disaster, Blame Game Erupts Over Chennai Oil Spill

Chennai: Days after an oil spill in northern pockets of Chennai – a city limping back to normalcy after

After Cyclone Michaung Disaster, Blame Game Erupts Over Chennai Oil Spill


Days after an oil spill in northern pockets of Chennai – a city limping back to normalcy after catastrophic flooding due to Cyclone Michaung – the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited have begun a blame game over the disaster. The oil spill was in the Ennore area of Chennai, which is home to refineries and petrochemical industries.

Apart from raising concerns about the potential contamination of a vast aquatic ecosystem, the spill – in the city’s Buckingham Canal – has added to the problems of locals dealing with significant damage to homes and properties along the crucial waterway.

The TNPCB has directed the CPCL to meticulously map affected areas and submit a comprehensive action plan. A technical team investigating the incident concluded the spill originated from a CPCL facility, and entered the Buckingham Canal during the floods.

Identifying inadequate stormwater management at CPCL, TNPCB hs also ordered the company to map oil spill hotspots and implement remedial measures. Stringent directives have been issued to ensure zero leakage, with the threat of operational suspension looming if violated.

READ | Video: Chennai, Battling With Floods, Now Has An Oil Spill Problem

Furthermore, CPCL is held liable for compensating affected families for loss of livelihood and environmental damages. Residents in several areas along the Buckingham Canal have reported a pervasive oil stench, respiratory issues, and skin infections.

The plight of individuals affected by the oil spill is heartbreaking. 

Catherine, a resident of Wimco Nagar, expressed her distress, stating, “All my designer wear and cosmetics have been destroyed by oil, just before a pageant competition in Kerala.”

Shanmugam, a 50-year-old resident, shared his health struggles, revealing, “I developed a urinary infection and spent Rs 1500 on medicine. I am not alright yet.”

Saradha, an elderly lady, displayed skin infections and recounted, “I waded through the oil spill moving my cattle. I have severe itching and rashes now.”

Nithya, a mother of two, emphasised the need for compensation, stating, “The government ought to ensure our homes and streets are cleaned scientifically to get rid of the oil.”

NDTV had traced the oil spill to at least four km away, and it has caused envitonmental damage at the Ennore estuary. Fishing boats had a thick coat of oil on the sides and nets were ruined. The shore had a long trail of black deposit. Suresh, the head of the fishermen’s association said “We can’t fish here. The spill is spreading into the sea as well. We will.lose our livelihood”.

Environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman also faults the government – for wasting crucial time in red tape. He says, “The government ought to have immediately contained the spread by placing buoys. But they let it spread as they investigated. Look at how fast they respond to a disaster”.

Last week CPCL denied any leakage on its pipeline and had said it was investigating.

The National Green Tribunal has taken up the case on its own, raising expectations for accountability. However, the crucial question is – will the state hold a central enterprise – the CPCL – accountable for the disaster and its impact on the lives of the affected residents?

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