Mystery behind sudden rise in marine pollution along Clifton beach remains unresolved

Mystery behind sudden rise in marine pollution along Clifton beach remains unresolved

KARACHI: Despite passage of three days on Tuesday, mystery behind sudden increase in the level of marine pollution at Karachi's Clifton beaches that was reported on Monday morning remained unresolved.

A team of World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Pakistan after visiting the site, revealed that "it is an oil spill" ,however ,added that the oil slick is "not widely spread" in seaward direction and is restricted to "inter tidal area".

However, a team of Marine Pollution Control Department, Karachi Port Trust (KPT) that took the samples from the site and after laboratory examination found that "there are specimen of oil in the samples" but still it is not confirmed that the phenomena is an "oil spill".

"We have examined the area and took samples, oil is detected in the samples, however, it is not an oil spill at all," said Fayyaz Rasool, Manager at Marine Pollution Control Department, Karachi Port Trust (KPT).

Talking to Daily Times, he apprehended that after recent torrential monsoon rains, water from across the city flowed through the nullahs and reached to the sea. "There are possibilities that the waste deposited in these nullahs washed with rain water due to which sudden raise in the marine pollution reported," he said, adding that his department is working to ascertain the actual reason behind this marine pollution. He has advice the public to be away from the sea till the issue is resolved.

On Monday morning the visitor found that the color of the sea water changed into black and the areas filled with strange stench. This increasing marine pollution reported between McDonald and Village Restaurant at Clifton beach and also reported to extend beyond Devil Point.

Some people apprehended that if it is oil spill than it must be occurred from KPT, however, spokesperson KPT Shariq rejected and said that no any oil spill recorded from KPT.

This is not for the first time that such an oil spill is reported to beach on Karachi coast. A similar slick beached at Sandspit on 20 May 2017, which alerted all concerned agencies.

On Other hand, WWF- Pakistan's officials termed it an oil spill but when asked, WWF-Pakistan's spokesperson Asif Sandilo said that the source of the oil spill is not known.

"The oil has already weathered and is emulsified. Now the spill is in advance process of dilution and does not seem to pose any immediate threat to the marine fauna and flora. However, the people visiting the beach should avoid going there until the water becomes completely free from slick," said WWF-Pakistan statement.


The statement further sates that it is likely that the oil slick has been developed due to release of oil from oil-reception facilities or has leaked from a ship passing by the area. "The oil is ultimately pushed by high monsoon winds and currents finally making its way to the sandy beach at Clifton,"

Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Adviser WWF-Pakistan, said that the weathered oil is now stranded at an intertidal area, mainly accumulating at the high tide watermark, leaving black lines or globs of oil on the beach as the tides recede. He also shared that natural processes including sun, high temperatures, wind, and waves will tend to gradually weather oil in the event as it remains on a beach. With both physical and chemical changes, asphalt-like "tar balls" are formed that eventually result in the beached oil breaking apart and finally disappearing. He urged that tracking of oil slicks or spills should also be done to ensure that such spills do not move towards sensitive marine habitats and biodiversity hotspots.

Khan claimed that the affected area at Clifton was visited by WWF-Pakistan's team who reported that the oil is further emulsified that can be seen at the wave break. "According to our team, no damage to marine life was noticed except a few dead fishes, which inhabit shallow waters along the coastline. However, there is no fear of mass mortality of fish any more," said adding that, as it is summer time, hence, no migratory birds, especially waders, were observed in the area. There was fortunately no dead animal observed on the affected beach except a sub-adult green turtle with damaged carcass, which seems to be a bit older whose death cannot be attributed to the oil slick.

Dr. Babar Khan, Regional head, Sindh and Balochistan WWF-Pakistan, there is no immediate threat to turtle beach as the wind and wave circulation pattern from west to east is presently under the influence of a south-westerly monsoon. However, WWF-Pakistan would caution that there is a need to monitor the affected and adjoining areas. The beaching of the present oil slick at Clifton and earlier at Sandspit in May 2017, requires the concerned authorities to be more vigilant and they should strengthen the mitigation measures. Finger prints should also be used to know the source of present and previous oil slicks so that necessary measures are taken in time to avoid future disasters. 'Containment and removal of oil spills is also required so that marine ecosystem including rare and unique aquatic fauna, physical infrastructure and people visiting such beaches are safe and secure', he urged.


Published in Daily Times, September 6th 2017.