The Peruvian government’s declaration will cover all the areas affected by the oil spill that occurred on January 15 as a result of the submarine volcanic eruption on the island of Tonga. With the measure, the authorities, among other things, seek to develop recovery work in the affected area and mitigate the effects of environmental pollution.
According to what was reported by Rubén Ramírez, Minister of the Environment of Peru and main figure of the Environmental Crisis Committee, the declaration will serve to guarantee the sustainable management of the affected territories.
Additionally, the measure will protect the health of the population due to the implications that oil may have for the body.
“The crude oil spill constitutes a sudden event with a significant impact on the coastal marine ecosystem of high biological diversity (wild fauna and hydrobiological resources), and a high risk to public health; for what it considers the origin of the Declaration of Environmental Emergency”, reads part of the declaration.
The aforementioned government initiative is based on the consideration of the Environmental Assessment and Control Agency (OEFA) that verified the presence of hydrocarbons both in the sea and in a part of the coast or beach strip.
Likewise, a statement from the National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State (Sernanp) states that the spilled oil shows displacements towards the north of the country due to the movement of sea currents. This affects “the areas of the Grupo de Pescadores Islets of the National Reserve System of Guaneras Islands, Islets and Points in approximately 512 hectares and the Ancón Reserved Zone in 1758.1 hectares, affecting the biodiversity of said ecosystems.”
“The tide causes a larger area to be affected, also in biodiversity and on beaches. We have 21 affected beaches that are closed for cleaning work,” Fabiola Muñoz, former Minister of the Environment of Peru, told France 24 in Spanish.
The oil spill, which at the moment affects an area of nearly three square kilometers of coastline and sea, occurred on the 15th when an oil tanker that was unloading crude oil for the La Pampilla refinery, operated by the oil company Repsol, was affected, according to the company’s version, by the strong waves that occurred after the volcanic eruption on the island of Tonga.
The Peruvian prosecutor’s office opened an investigation for the alleged crime of environmental pollution. Likewise, the ship Mare Doricum remains anchored on the high seas with a bail letter of 39 million dollars.
Eduardo González Toro: “the problem has left the north of the country without a summer”
According to the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, on January 22, the Minister of Energy and Mines, Eduardo González Toro, spoke about the situation and supported the decree of a state of environmental emergency in the area.
“I believe that the emergency declaration of the entire Peruvian coast is necessary because this is a problem that has left the north of the country without a summer. There will be no bathers, businesses, tourism operators, fishermen and restaurants that will not be harmed,” González Toro declared to the aforementioned media outlet.
Indeed, days ago some 1,500 artisanal fishermen in the area spoke out about the situation as they have faced difficulties in being able to develop their productive activities.
“I make a living from the sea. This is a loss of work days. I have 12 employees, the impact on the beach is huge, we haven’t worked for four days. It’s actually an economic loss, first the pandemic and now an oil spill, I don’t know what to do,” said Bécquer Solís, a local resident who lives near the sea.
According to the Reuters news agency, the Peruvian Ministry of Health has set up tents to attend to the health of residents who may have problems due to the situation.
“The Minister of Health has ordered a deployment along the entire coast to care for the sick on the one hand and also to provide preventive measures along with the necessary information for residents and those affected. The idea is to keep people away from the beach, which is already contaminated, and not have direct contact with the affected animals,” said Elizabeth Rojas, an official from the Ministry of Health.
Repsol advances in the recovery work of the affected area
Through of a statement from the company Repsol reported on January 22 that the cleaning work carried out has allowed the removal of 2,384 m3 of affected soil. They also reported that this work could be completed by the end of February.
“Currently there are more than 1,350 people doing the cleaning work on land, who were trained for this work and have the necessary PPE (personal protection equipment). In addition, we have 5 ambulances available in the area to attend to any medical situation,” reads part of the statement.
Additionally, the oil company has indicated that it has established an agreement with four fishermen’s associations in the area to coordinate efforts and provide support due to the situation.
In the midst of the situation, the company maintains that the spill was the product of strong waves that destabilized the vessel and caused damage to the pipeline. However, a general of the Peruvian Navy consulted by the newspaper La República determined that “that is one version.”
Regarding this, the EFE news agency quotes a group of sailors interviewed by the newspaper El Comercio who admit to having abandoned a competition due to the lack of waves.
“The sea was flat, there were no waves, there were no winds, no particular conditions,” said sailor Alec Hughes, who adds that he heard a shrill noise coming from the ship.
With EFE, Reuters and Peruvian media