What are basketball sized tarballs that accumulate at Juhu, Versova beaches during monsoon season, check details

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Updated: September 16, 2021 12:59 PM

The ships that traverse the busy trade routes through oceans leak the oil on the surface of the sea and the oil subsequently gets weathered with the water and forms the tarballs.

The civic body in the Mumbai city every year appoints a contractor entrusted with the responsibility of cleaning the beach areas of the city. (Credit: Shaunak Modi, Director, Coastal Conservation Foundation)

Residents living in the vicinity of the Cuffe Parade shoreline in South Mumbai were startled to find tarballs lying on the coast of the swelling sea. In a similar incident, Juhu beach residents also complained about the detestable foul smell stemming from the hordes of tarballs that had accumulated on the beach on September 4 this year, the Indian Express reported. As per the data provided by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the civic body has removed more than 20000 kg of tarballs from different shore points at the Juhu and Versova beaches.

How are tarballs formed?
Dark coloured, sticky balls that are formed from the spilled oil on the surface of the seas and oceans is a recurring problem for the residents of the coastal cities. The ships that traverse the busy trade routes through oceans leak the oil on the surface of the sea and the oil subsequently gets weathered with the water and forms the tarballs. The phenomenon takes a bad turn during the months of monsoon season as the high tides and strong winds bring these tarballs to the coasts of the sea. While the majority of tarballs are in small size, environmentalists have of late highlighted that the size of tarballs has started exceeding that of a big basketball and the tarballs weigh as much as 6-7 kg a unit.

How are tarballs disposed of from the coast?
The civic body in the Mumbai city every year appoints a contractor entrusted with the responsibility of cleaning the beach areas of the city. However, cleaning of the beaches is not as easy as it sounds as the sticky substance clings to the cleaning machinery and does not get washed off easily, BMC officials told the Indian Express. Apart from the logistics challenges, there are other challenges when it comes to cleaning tarballs. As per the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), there is no clearly demarcated jurisdiction when it comes to the task of cleaning the beaches. MPCB said that most of the tarballs depositing at the beaches are formed by the oil leaked from large cargo vessels which ply in the deeper parts of the sea where the MPCB has no jurisdiction. It also said that they are not authorised with power or guidelines to control the management of cargo vessels and trade ships.

Larger climate impact
Apart from being a source of reprehension and dirt at the pristine and swelling beaches of the coastal areas, the issue of oil leaks harming the aquatic species including fish, porpoises and coral reefs has adequately been highlighted by climate activists. Food retrieved from the coastal waters including fish and other sea food might also get contaminated and become a part of the larger food chain harming the health of people.

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