Chennai Oil Spill and fishermen tWO CONTRASTING VIEWS FROM THE CHENNAI COAST

Nochikuppam beach wears a deserted look, three days after two vessels collided near Kamarajar Port. The resulting oil spill has blanketed the coastline, preventing fishermen from earning their livelihoods. But the fishermen of Nochikuppam wave the worries of contaminated catch aside.

"There is no problem with fishing. The oil has dispersed. It is deposited on the shore. The fish are free from trouble. The oil collects on the surface and the fish live underneath. Haven't you watched discovery channel?" one fisherman exclaims as he sets to work freeing small fish trapped on his fishing net.

A stroll through Nochikuppam beach, situated about twelve kilometres south of Bharathiyar Beach, one of the biggest site of the oil spill, reveals a mottled streak of solidified oil stranded on the sand.

Chinnatampi, a fisherman, said, "The seawater has been sent to lab for testing. We took two samples. One water sample from near the shore and another further away in the open sea. The results are the reason why we continue to fish and our business has not dulled."

Chinnatampi and his companies heaved their diesel boat into midst of the white crested waves and were soon were away fishing.

Further away from the beach, a couple of old timers were playing cards in the shade of a shack. Chandran, fisherman, was emphatic when questioned on the ill effects of the oil spill on fishing.

"There is no connection between oil and fish. Oil sticks to the surface. Fish swim underneath. Our customers have no trouble buying our fish. Most of the fish that we bring are used for domestic consumption."

But for the fishermen of Bharathiya Beach, the site of one of the biggest oil spill, the situation is different.

"The livelihood of the fishermen has been destroyed." said Shankar, a fisherman. "Our nets are ruined with the presence of oil. Our motorboats have been put of action by the thick oil. People have been restricted from entering the ocean. Altogether twenty four hamlets in this region have suffered due to this disaster. The government must provide compensation for the suffering fishermen. "

"The wind and waves have caused the oil to be collected in this area" Mahalingam, another fisherman pipes in, "For three days the fish market has not functioned."

The Coast Guard, along with the help of locals and NGOs has been trying to collect the oil from the sea. "We are using suction appliances. We are also manually scraping off the oil from the water surface using buckets. So far we have removed 6.5 tonnes of oil." A Coast Guard official said.

"It will take one week to remove the oil completely." said Ezhumalai, a volunteer with an NGO helping the Coast Guard. "We wade into the sea and use 500 hundred litre containers to scoop off oil from the sea. We then dump it into silos lining the beach. We have filled ten silos so far."

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