IIT engineer suggests technology to clean up Mumbai beaches.

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It is time to start cleaning up the beaches when the oil spill is freshly entrapped into the sand and silt using the Sand and Silt Washing Reactors (SSWR), said an environmental expert from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) here.

It is important to skim the floating oil in the ocean but at the same time it is equally important to clean up the beaches without wasting time, Dr Shyam Asolekar, professor, Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering of IIT-Bwho has developed SSWR technology told PTI today.

"Sooner the better as the oil will get weathered by various atmospheric factors and then it is difficult to dissolve," he said.

The SSWR can be of five tonne or 10 tonne capacity and will take 36 to 48 hours for each batch load to clean up the sand. The cleaned sand will be put back in its place, Asolekar who has developed the technology said.

Asked whether this technology has been used earlier, the environment engineer said, ONGC had called him in mid-1990s when it had experienced leakage of oily waste water from its facility in Uran, near Mumbai. As a result, two to six inches of sand was loaded with oil in and around one kilo-metre stretch of the beach. But they never used the technology, he said.

However, the Americans are now calling him to participate in their efforts to clean up the beaches with his technology as they had gone through his scientific papers.

"Since in the case of Mexican gulf leak, it (the leak) is not yet plugged. So they can take some time to clean the beaches but in our case, since the leak has already been plugged last night as reports said, it is important to begin the clean up of the beaches," he said.


The IIT scientist said the crude oil is a mixture of several petroleum compounds and some of its molecules get dissolved in water and this remains in water for a long time thus contaminating both lower and higher life forms.

"Not only the ocean lives are affected, even the birds which depend on the sea life are affected due to this contamination. Some componentsof the oil evaporate and pollute the atmosphere and could pose problems to fishermen, rescue workers and birds.

When asked whether he was approached by any of the agencies involved in the ocean clean up process, he said, "no one has approached me so far except the Americans who wanted to use my technology for cleaning their beaches."

Meanwhile, director of Nagpur based NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute)Dr SR Wate said that they were not approached by Coast Guard or any other agencies for the clean up process.

"Coast Guard along with Bombay Port are doing excellent work and are well equipped," he said.

Surfactants can be used for chemical treatment as part of the clean up process, he said.

"But our research team will carry out the sampling of the water and sedimentation for contamination of oil. The team will also test for pesticide content which might have leaked from the containers carrying the toxic chemicals," he said.

NEERI's Mumbai office has begun sampling of sea water and sediments along the western coast of Mumbai Harbour and Alibag in Raigarh district, its in-charge Dr Rakesh Kumarsaid.

Author: IndiaCarbonOutlook