Residents of Dikowita claim poor maintenance of fuel pipeline, main cause for Oil spill

Published : 12:06 am  September 13, 2018 | No comments so far |  | 


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  • The shores from Dikowita to Palliyawatta, Avarakotuwa and  Uswetakeiyawa were drenched in fuel that washed ashore following  the oil spill
  • Media reports state that the cargo ship carried 30,000 metric tons of  fuel, 15,000 of which had already been transferred when the incident occurred  


CITY-DM-4-10Text & Pics by P.H.P. Perera and Sarath Chinthaka  

Residents of Dikowita, reeling from the aftermath of the oil spill which took place last week, state that better maintenance of fuel pipelines would have avoided such incidents in the future.  

The incident which took place last Saturday saw several areas of the Western coast line drenched in fuel causing severe environmental damage.   

The fuel pipeline, situated four to five miles off the coast of Dikowita, Wattala, exploded while fuel was being transferred from a cargo ship to the Muthurajawela storage facility. While officers at the scene had taken all measures necessary to inform the relevant high ranking officials it is no secret that many were woefully unprepared for the disaster that was to wash ashore soon after.   

Local government and relevant administrative officers of affected areas such as Wattala, Kerawalapitiya and Pamunugama were unavailable at the site of the disaster and unaware of the gravity of the incident.   

However, the Sri Lanka Navy and state officials posted in Dikowita took measures to clear out the oil that would wash ashore soon. Despite taking all measures needed to deal with the spill, officers were unaware of the magnitude of fuel they would need to clean out.   

The shores from Dikowita to Palliyawatta, Avarakotuwa and Uswetakeiyawa were drenched in fuel that washed ashore in the following days. Golden stretches of beach had turned black.   

Residents state that it was at this moment that the gravity of the situation was understood by state officials.   

Media reports state that the cargo ship carried 30,000 metric tons of fuel, 15,000 of which had already been transferred when the incident occurred. However, the amount of fuel that was discharged to the sea is yet to be determined, even though several officials believe that 10 to 25 metric tons of fuel was released from the pipeline when it exploded.   

Approximately eight bowser truck of fuel was collected by the cleaning crew as of Monday, officials said.   

While the damage caused is yet to be assessed completely, the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) stated that the marine eco system in the area had been severely affected by the incident.   
MEPA Media Spokesman Saumya Ekanayake confirmed that stern legal action will be taken against those responsible for the incident.   



“We are working with the navy, army, coast conservation department and the fuel distribution unit towards cleaning out the oil spill,” he said.  

It is interesting to note that this was not the first oil spill to be reported from the area or recently. The pipe line in Thaldiyawatte exploded resulting in an oil spill that spread across a nearby estuary and lagoon.  

The incident resulted in heavy environmental losses, with fish both fresh and salt water being affected by it, not to mention the damage caused to the mangroves in the area. Residents stated the incident succeeded in wiping out plants and animals indigenous to the area.   

A fisherman Nicolas Perera said that this was not the first incident where the pipelines carrying fuels in the area had leaked.   

“The leaks experienced now are due to the incompetence of the officials who have been responsible for maintenance. They should be diligently watching this pipe which carries fuel, we don’t see them doing anything of the sort. We haven’t seen them renovate or even repair this pipeline since it was laid years ago. Even we can see the pipeline rusting in some parts.”