Never fall victim to maritime disasters again, urge experts | Print edition
By Nadia Fazlulhaq
With the prospect of having a vast floating slick of plastic pellets spanning the entire Indian Ocean as one of the consequences of environmental damage from the MV X-Press Pearl fire, experts called for a proactive planning to deal with maritime disasters as well as an ongoing mechanism for assessing marine biodiversity.
“The impact on marine life from the recent maritime disaster will last for decades. Preparation is lacking and planning is only mobilized when there is a problem. We need to put in place structures to respond to extreme marine events, ”said Dr Charitha Pattiaratchi, professor of coastal oceanography at the Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia.
Professor Pattiaratchi, who observed the movement of surface chlorophyll reflecting the trajectory of nurdles (plastic granules) released from the containers of the burning and sinking X-Press Pearl off the coast of Sri Lanka, said the Sunday Times these would extend over the entire Indian Ocean, from Somalia to Indonesia via India and the Maldives.
“Plastic granules are generally not toxic, but ingestion of large amounts can lead to death,” he said. “The pellets can get stuck in the gills of fish and also suffocate marine animals such as turtles and dolphins. The only way to reduce its impact is to remove as much as possible.
The worst environmental damage caused by the sinking of the ship would be the potential oil spill, he said.
According to Professor Ashoka Deepananda, Head of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department at Ruhuna University, it will be difficult to assess the damage to the marine environment because Sri Lanka does not have a monitoring mechanism continuation of the marine ecosystem.
“We lack the latest data on marine biodiversity before the ship disaster to assess the damage caused by the fire. The lack of funding to conduct research and the lack of state intervention to obtain the latest technologies or help from developed countries will be obstacles for the authorities trying to assess the damage now, ”he said. he declares.
The effect of microplastics and chemicals released into the sea would only be fully evident in the years to come.
“While the damage from the oil spill can be noticed and assessed, the damage to marine life from the chemicals will only become evident in the years to come. This can impact the life cycle of fish as the larvae are sensitive to chemicals. The Negombo lagoon is rich in biodiversity and mangroves, which attracts marine species. While fish can swim to deep water, larvae and algae will be directly exposed to chemicals, ”Prof Deepananda said.
Dr Ravindra Fernando, senior professor of forensic science and founding director of the country’s only national poison information clearinghouse, said: flanged urea, high and low density polyethylene (46 containers), epoxy resins (349 containers) , sodium methoxide, caustic soda (42 containers), aluminum processing by-products and raw materials for cosmetics, as well as 28 containers of raw materials used to make plastic bags. With the sinking of the ship, the release of chemicals poses a serious risk to the ocean and the coastal ecosystem. “
Professor Fernando said nitric acid will damage corals and ocean life because it is a highly corrosive chemical.
“It’s a very dangerous acid. The chemical spill is already causing damage to Sri Lanka’s coastline, including the popular resorts of Negombo and Kalutara, with beaches covered in a thick layer of microplastics and an oil slick visible in the surrounding ocean, ” said the toxicology expert.
Professor Fernando said the plastic granules used to make plastic bags can be deadly to marine life and cause the deaths of sea turtles, fish and even birds. Dead fish have washed up on the shores with plastic pellets trapped in their gills.
The Ministry of Urban Development said 584 tons of plastic pellet debris from the sinking ship was collected from the nine-kilometer coastline between Uswetakaiyawa and Sarakkukanda following beach clean-ups by Navy personnel, Air Force and Coast Conservation Department. and Marine Environment Protection Authority.