Oil slick remains, but ship cleared for release


Although an oil slick still remains in the sea off Galle, the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) has released the vessel allegedly responsible for the leak.

The vessel was taken into custody by the Sri Lanka Navy on suspicion that it had released furnace oil into the sea off Unawatuna two days ago.

Fishermen complained to the MEPA that furnace oil was being released into the sea.

MEPA Director General Rear Admiral S. R. Samaratunga told The Island that according to their investigations the vessel did not release furnace oil.

"Our officials went to the vessel and checked it," he said, adding that it had no connection to the oil slick.

Asked how an oil slick from Galle to the Boossa sea area still remained, Rear Admiral Samaratunga said that it was due to oil released by another vessel sailing in the international waters.

He said the quantity of furnace oil in the sea was not enough to harm the marine environment, according to MEPA experts.

However, MEPA immediately had taken necessary action to remove the oil slick, Samaratunga said.

Meanwhile, environmentalists demanded for a proper investigation into the oil slick.

Director of the Nature Forum, Sajeewa Chamikara said that the oil slick was visible yesterday, too.

"This is not the first time that vessels in the international sea route have released oil into Sri Lankan waters," he said adding the MEPA must take necessary action to stop the environment hazard.

Environmental Lawyer Jagath Gunawardena said that there was suspicion that the vessel would be released while the oil slick remained and no action would be taken against those responsible for the slick.

Gunawardena said that according to the Marine Pollution Prevention Act No. 35 of 2008 the cost of the environment pollution must be borne by the responsible ship.

"If they cannot pay the amount, there are provisions in the act to confiscate the vessel," he said.

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