ISLAMABAD, Nov 4: The oil spill from Tasman Spirit may continue to affect human and marine life in the coastal areas of Karachi for up to 500 years, reveals an official document submitted to the federal government.

According to the document titled “Impact of Oil Spill and Bioremedial Measures to Mitigate the Effects on Marine Environment Along the Clifton Beach and Adjoining Areas of Karachi”, crude oil and its components are highly poisonous and recalcitrant, some of which may even persist for up to 500 years in soil and sediment.

“Recent oil spill from Tasman Spirit may cause severe damage to fish and shellfish population and other marine life by creating anaerobic conditions and by exerting toxic stress on the physiology, productive cycle and growth,” the document states.

Terming it an optimistic figure, the document states that the amount of petroleum spilled is not expected to be reduced to safe levels till at least half a century if left to the nature. The Centre for Molecular Genetics (CMG) would attempt to enhance the pace of degradation of the petroleum pollutants by the use of environmental bioremedial technology, officials said.

According to the officials in the ministry of science and technology, the CMG possesses a considerable stock of micro-organisms that can degrade petroleum products with high efficiency.

The document concedes that the oil spilled due to the accident is spreading and drifting by wind direction all along the Karachi coast and has devastated the revenue and employment in the fishing industry.

Describing how toxicity from the oil spill may enter the human food chain, the report states that mangroves in the coastal areas of Karachi are a natural habitat of deep sea fish where they lay eggs, hatch them and where the newly-hatched fish grow till they are mature enough to survive in the open sea. Any pollution in these areas not only cause damage to these flora and fauna, but it also will eventually negatively affect the human food chain, the report says, adding that this happens when the pollutants are in concentrations low enough to allow the fish and the plants to survive.

“When such polluted produce (fish and plants) is consumed, it can result in poisoning, illness and even death of the consumer,” the report says while emphasising the need to immediately start rehabilitation of the coastal areas.

The ministry of Science and Technology has approved the two-year project to be completed at a cost of Rs33 million with the National Institute for Oceanography (NIO), Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) and Centre for Molecular Genetics as the executing agencies. Each executing agency has been allocated over Rs10 million, sources said.

The NIO, the sources said, is yet to purchase oil pollution tracking devices, software and passive sampling devices for which an amount of Rs5 million has been allocated.

The PCSIR would purchase chemicals at a cost of Rs3.5 million and equipment at a cost of Rs5 million. The CMG would use Rs2 million for mass culture of oil degrade bacteria.

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