Karachi oil spill devastation

Feature story - 28 August, 2003
The biggest oil spill in the history of Pakistan is sickening people and destroying wildlife.

Over one million tonnes of oil were spilled into the world's oceans during the 1990s

On August 14th, the Tasmin Spirit, a 24-year-old Greek oil tanker, spilled 15,000 tonnes of crude oil across a 14 kilometre stretch of the Karachi coast. 13 million people live in Karachi, and the wind is wafting dangerous petroleum fumes over the city.

A Greenpeace supporter from Karachi writes: "[The] ship has leaked out thousands of tonnes of crude oil which has spread all over the major beaches and coast line. If immediate efforts are not made this disaster will spread on the entire coast line of Pakistan and in to other neighbouring countries. This has already created a disaster for the marine life killing thousands of sea animals already including hundreds of rare species including lobsters, sea horse, jellyfish. The stinky smell is so strong that the adjacent areas of the entire coastline have become inaccessible for living.

People including small children and senior citizens are having severe respiratory and digestion problems including vomiting, diarrhoea and other ... diseases."

Another supporter writes: "People living near the beaches have caught up severe throat infections. Just yesterday some students in a school became unconscious and the government finally had to close down all the schools near the beaches. The affects do not end here - soon you will hear a lot of family-suicides in those same oil-covered waters by the fishermen that have become jobless and already have nothing to eat."

An estimated 90,000 fisherman are without work now as the crude oil has devastated the local fisheries. Turtle hatcheries on the southern coast and myriad aquatic life in the region are threatened not only by oil, but by the chemical dispersants being sprayed to try to contain the disaster.

Clean up operations have begun, but as with the Prestige oil spill which is now estimated to have spilled 63,000 tonnes of oil along the Galicia coast in Spain, and the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, which spilled 38,800 tonnes, the ecosystem will take years to recover. New Scientist reports that the Spanish coast may take a decade to return to normal.

Too many people and too many ecosystems have suffered from deadly oil spills. The only answer is to move toward a clean energy future and phase out the world's deadly addiction to oil. We can't undo the environmental devastation that's been visited on the Karachi coast, but we can do something to reduce oil consumption and prevent future spills. That means implementing the Kyoto agreement on reducing Greenhouse gasses, and taking immediate conservation steps.

Visit greenribbonpledge.org for tips on saving energy at home and at work. Also, take the Pledge to see how your energy-saving tasks add up.

Learn more about moving toward a clean energy future.

Write to the board of directors of the world's largest oil company, ExxonMobil and tell them to invest in renewable energy and stop sabotaging action on climate change.

Join the discussion at the cybercentre.

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