Armed with gloves, boots and buckets volunteers along with authorities have been scooping out sludge from Chennai's coastline caused by the massive oil spill. Shores of R K Puram beach are dumped with drums, tanks and containers filled with black sludge scooped out manually in an attempt to clean the coastline. Despite coming under severe criticisms for not using advanced methods of clean up or even handing out safety gears to those involve din the clean-up, authorities claimed that manual is the only way to go about cleaning the sludge formation.
"Most of the sludge is cleaned up but Ennore area will take a few more days. The sludge can only be cleared manually and that is time-consuming," said Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan after visiting the site on Saturday. If you are wondering why manual is the only way to go, the sludge has become too thick for machines to clear it off the surface of the waters.
A super suction vaccum truck was used in the initial days of clean up but it turned out to be a futile exercise. The sewer truck deployed by Metrowater removed a mixture of oil and water, with oil constituting only about 30%. Most of what it could draw was water. Thanks to the delay in containing the oil spill and its mixing with sea water, it has turned into thick sludge that is causing vacuum machines to clog.
While oil spill dispersants have been sprayed to contain the spill, it has eliminated all other ways of cleaning up the mess. "We have tried all kinds of technology and found that manual clearing is the only possibility," said MA Bhaskarachar, the chairman of Chennai's Kamarajar Port where the ships collided leading to the oil spill.
While manual cleaning may be the only option to rid the Chennai coastline of sludge, safety equipment is the least the authorities can provide to people who are involved in the clean-up activity. Volunteers continue to clean up the oil spill despite lack of proper safety gear.