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Centre calls meet on Goa’s ‘tar balls’ phenomenon

Times of India, Delhi, 9th July 2014


With Goa's tar balls phenomenon getting wider attention of environmentalists and parliamentarians, the Centre has called a high-level meeting of stakeholders, including experts from across the country, later this month to find out exact reason of the deposition of polluting substances along the state coasts every year during Monsoon season.

"We still don't know the exact reason why does this phenomenon affect Goa coast. It is important to discuss the issue thoroughly based on scientific findings and to have a clear road-map to deal with the menace," said Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar.

He was responding to various concerns expressed by MPs during a short duration discussion over the issue in Rajya Sabha.

He said experts from National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), officials of Goa pollution control board, Coast Guard and Shipping Directorate would be invited to attend the meeting to suggest a road-map to deal with the tar balls issue.

Members during the discussion pointed out that the tar balls phenomenon was not only affecting state tourism but also endangering marine ecology.

Raising the issue, Congress member Shantaram Naik blamed foreign shipping companies for such deposition, saying oil spilled during washing of containers off the Indian coast is probably the main reason behind such marine pollution in the state.

"Are such companies taking advantage of liberal environment laws and deliberately use Indian coast to wash their containers? ...Why our coast guards or Navy don't take action against those ships? ... Aren't these tar balls posing security risk along Indian coasts?" asked Naik.

He also emphasized that the government should find out whether some countries were doing something deliberately to hit India's tourism.

The tar balls are the remnants of oily substances that are dispersed naturally into the sea through wave action over a long period of time, and eventually get deposited at the seabed.

"Oily substances might be available in many places off the Indian coast. But, why this phenomenon is restricted to Goa coast alone? We have to find out the reason before opting for a solution", said the minister.

He noted that NEERI had carried out a study on behalf of the Director General of Shipping and submitted a report to the Bombay High Court. The findings of NEERI were, however, inconclusive as it pointed out multiple reasons without citing an exact cause of the phenomena.

The NEERI findings noted that the source of the tar balls "could be oil-exploration activities from offshore oil installations, natural phenomenon from the sea-bed or from sea going vessels passing through the area" -- leaving it a mystery for policy-makers.

Javadekar said, "Coast Guard ships and aircraft are regularly deployed for surveillance and monitoring of the maritime zones of India, including EEZ off the coast of Goa. No oil spill has been found by the Coast Guard ships and aircraft on EEZ surveillance off the west coast of India, including off Goa coast."


e also noted that the overall responsibility for taking measures for preserving and protecting the marine environment and to prevent and control marine pollution lies with the Coast Guard.