30km of beach near Teluk Ramunia, Johor are polluted with oil sludge. Among the areas involved are Tanjung Punggai, Sungai Rengit, Langkah Baru, Sungai Buntu, Sungai Kapal and Sungai Musuh. The slick hit the beaches on Friday night and about 5am yesterday it had already reached the boat jetties.
Fisherfolk of Kampung Sungai Rengit cleaning up the oil sludge at the beach. Photo: New Straits Times 30 May 10.
“However, it is just a few spots here and there and it is not a major concern. The clean-up operation is ongoing and is estimated that it will take less than a week to complete.” said the Malaysian Department of the Environment.
Cleaning crew been deployed to prevent the sludge from reaching nearby rivers, using biogradable dispersants and absorbent materials to soak up the oil. Meanwwhile 3.3km of booms circled the main slick in the shipping lanes that straddle the waters of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The fishermen have not been going out to sea since the oil spill began, affecting at least 1,400 fishermen. Malaysian authorities are working out a compensation package for the fishermen whose livelihood had been affected by the oil spill.
Meanwhile, ships and vessels that dock around the waters of Teluk Ramunia are alleged to have taken advantage of the massive oil spill to illegally dump their oil waste into the sea. This follows the discovery of 50 sacks filled with oil sludge that were floating around Pulau Lima which is close to the Sungai Musuh jetty here.
The Malaysians seem to have a different attitude to the spill. The Star editorial had this to say about the oil spill: The first concern for the authorities now should be to get rid of the oil slick. It noted that "more than just tourism and the national economy are at stake. Public health is threatened, and fishing communities revolving around the daily catch are unjustly deprived of their livelihoods as well."
The lack of casualities and infrequent incidence of spills "is no cause for celebration since every single accident must be deemed unnecessary and avoided diligently by all concerned". It ended with a call to "switch to clean, renewable forms of energy away from types of fossil fuels including nuclear. If crude oil contamination alone can cause so many problems internationally, it would be far worse if highly radioactive materials are involved, particularly when terrorists threaten to steal or sabotage these materials for their nefarious purposes."
In comparison, the Straits Times editorial yesterday said: "Environmentalists fretted about the impact on marine wildlife" adding that "environmental damage is unlikely to be significant, as the affected area is largely made up of reclaimed land, sea walls and canals." It was remarked that "the state's well-oiled systems were promptly activated to contain the effects of the spill" and spoke about how "People living in flats near highways should accept the dust and noise pollution."
Singapore media reports today mainly focused on the oil spill at Chek Jawa.