Oil pollution occurs when liquid petroleum hydrocarbon is released into the environment. Oil spills may be due to leakage from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and wells, as well as spills of refined petroleum products. Ex. off the coast of Chennai, Sri Lanka, Mauritius etc.
Impacts of oil pollution on the marine ecosystem:
- On Ocean characteristics:
- Reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in water.
- Reduces sunlight penetration reducing bio-productivity.
- On Marine life:
- Chokes the respiratory system of marine animals
- Reduces their insulating ability making them more vulnerable to temperature fluctuations.
- Impair a bird’s ability to fly, irritating the digestive tract, altering liver function, and causing kidney damage.
- Habitat destruction:
- Destroys important coastal habitats such as mangroves, estuaries and salt marshes and coral reefs.
- Ex. Sundarbans threatened by multiple oil spills over years.
Harmful impacts on India:
- Vast coastline of India and its huge dependence on imported crude oil make it particularly vulnerable.
- Diverse ecosystems like Sundarbans, Bhitarkanika, Lakshadweep Corals, and Kerala backwaters face huge threats in terms of biodiversity loss.
- Coastal communities dependent on marine fisheries may lose their livelihoods.
- High vulnerability to cyclones, coastal flooding, etc. further makes the cleaning process difficult.
It is imperative for India to have robust preventive measures, emergency response plans, and stringent regulations to mitigate risks. Various technological measures (magnetic soap, autonomous robots, ultra-absorbent sponges, and waste human hairs) can be employed for post-oil spill mitigation.