Want to Volunteer at the Chennai Oil Spill Clean Up? Here Are Some Do’s and Don’ts

It’s been a harrowing few days along the coast of Chennai where two cargo ships collided, causing a massive oil spill. While the numbers are still fuzzy, experts now note that it could be 10 times as much as initially reported.  Since then, hundreds of volunteers from the general public have lined up, ready to do their bit in cleaning up the sludge and saving their city.

It’s heartrending and uplifting to see the common man rise to occasion in saving the planet. But, it is also highly dangerous. It is diesel that has been spilled and experts on the ground are advising extreme caution.

We caught up with Arun Krishnamurthy, the founder of Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI), who is currently heading one of the groups in Chennai that is part of the clean-up to find out just what anyone wanting to help ought to know.

Here’s what he had to say:

oil spill chennai

Photo Source: Facebook

1) This is not a regular lake or pond clean-up. Oil spills are dangerous. Even if you are enthusiastic, think twice before showing up to the site. You must be aware of exactly what you are getting yourself into.

2) If you do come, then make sure you are with groups that provide the right gear. We are providing our volunteers with gum boots, extra-protective gloves and shovels to make sure they never have physical contact with the oil because that could be dangerous.

3) Don’t breathe the fumes that are on-ground. We are providing volunteers with masks.

4) It’s a hard task at hand and the heat is making things worse. Our volunteers generally spend a few hours in a day helping.

5) Make your health the main priority. No matter how much of protective gear is provided, it really is not enough. This is dangerous work and think twice.

In case you don’t want to volunteer at the site but still want to help out to aid in the clean-up, here’s what Arun says you can do:

1) Use your social clout. Write to the government. Add pressure to the main authorities to make sure they take action and don’t end up suppressing the damage done.

2) Part of the judiciary world? Take that route and see how you can help out through judicial options available to the public.

A devastating effect on wildlife

Arun says that it is imperative that everyone in the country works together in holding our leaders accountable when it comes to addressing this spill because it has already had a catastrophic effect on the local wildlife.

“There has been tremendous losses in terms of the wildlife. Fish are washing up on the shore. And devastatingly, given that it is the nesting and breeding season for sea-turtles, they have become victims of this spill and sea turtles are already endangered. The Chennai coastal line is also home to dolphins and other species. We won’t know the full effect until much later,” he says.


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In case if you are still determined to volunteer, then make sure you diligently read these guidelines from the National Institute of Environmental Health Science.

Contact EFI here

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