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Why the Mauritius oil spill is so serious

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Greenpeace

The amount of oil spilled from the Japanese-owned ship nearby the lagoons and coastal areas of south-east Mauritius is relatively low compared to the big oil spills the world has seen in the past, but the damage it will do is going to be huge and long-lasting, experts say.

Unlike most previous offshore spills, this has taken place near two environmentally protected marine ecosystems and the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve, which is a wetland of international importance.

So, it’s the location rather than the size of the spill which is causing greatest concern about its potentially serious environmental impact.

The stunning turquoise waters of the blue lagoon outside the coastal village of Mahébourg in Mauritius, the backdrop for numerous Bollywood movies, are now stained black and brown.

The ship, MV Wakashio, ran aground at Pointe d’Esny in late July, and oil began leaking from it last Thursday. Satellite images show the oil spill stretched out between the mainland at Pointe D’Esny and the island of Ile-aux-Aigrettes.

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EUROPEAN UNION, COPERNICUS

It is thought that more than 1,000 tonnes of fuel have leaked out of the ship and into the lagoon. A huge clean-up operation has been launched from the shore with many local people volunteering to help.

On 7 August, nearly two weeks after the shipwreck, the Mauritian government declared the incident a national emergency.

Biodiversity hotspot

Mauritius is a biodiversity hotspot with a high concentration of plants and animals unique to the region.

“The wind and the water currents are not helping, they are taking the oil towards the areas that have vital marine ecosystems,” Sunil Mokshananda, a former Greenpeace strategist, who is on an island near the oil-spill site, told the BBC.

The Mauritian marine environment is home to 1,700 species including around 800 types of fish, 17 kinds of marine mammals and two species of turtles, according to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves make Mauritian waters extraordinarily rich in biodiversity.

“There are very few such marine areas with such rich biodiversity left on the planet. An oil spill like this will impact almost everything there,” said Dr Corina Ciocan, a senior lecturer in marine biology at the UK’s University of Brighton.

“It is not just about the light oil slick you see on the surface of the water caused by the spill.

“There will also be soluble compounds from the oil that will dissolve in the water, a mousse-like layer underneath the surface of the water, and then very heavy residues on the bed – so the entire marine ecosystem will be affected.”

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Greenpeace

Image caption

Some of the coral reefs have already been contaminated by the oil spill

The ship, MV Wakashio, is believed to have been carrying around 4,000 tonnes of fuel, of which nearly 1,200 tonnes have already spilled, according to the operator Mitsui OSK Lines.

Despite bad weather, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said all the oil has now been removed from the ship’s fuel reservoirs, although a small amount remains on board elsewhere. There had been fears that the ship could break up, spilling even more oil into the sea.

Fuel has been transferred to shore by helicopter and to another ship owned by the same Japanese firm, Nagashiki Shipping.

Why the ship came so close to the lagoon is not clear and is being investigated by police.

At a news conference, Akihiko Ono, executive vice-president of Mitsui OSK Lines “profusely” apologised for the spill and for “the great trouble we have caused”.

Coral-bleaching

One of the major concerns has been for coral reefs in the lagoon – which are sometimes called the rainforests of the sea – because of the diversity of life found in them.

Around 25% of fish in the ocean depend on healthy coral reefs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US.

They protect coastlines from storms and erosion. Coral reefs and the marine ecosystems are the major pillars of Mauritian tourism which is a big part of the country’s economy.

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Sunil Mokshanand

Image caption

Local communities have been helping to clean up the oil spill

“The toxic hydrocarbons released from spilled oil will bleach the coral reefs and they will eventually die,” said Professor Richard Steiner, an international oil spill adviser and a marine biologist in Alaska, US.

Last year Professor Steiner helped the government of the Solomon Islands when a ship spilled oil on the coral reef off its coast:

“Although the oil spill wasn’t large – just a few hundred tonnes of oil – the damage to the coral reefs there have been massive.”

Impact of past oil spills

Although previous oil spills around the world have not been in as environmentally sensitive areas, they have still significantly affected marine animals and plants.

In 2010, the Deep Water Horizon incident off the Gulf of Mexico saw nearly 400,000 tonnes of oil spill, resulting in the death of thousands of species ranging from plankton to dolphins.

There were also other longer-term impacts on marine life including impaired reproduction, reduced growth, lesions and disease.

“Researchers found skin lesions on red snapper from the northern Gulf in the months after the spill, but the lesions became less frequent and severe by 2012,” wrote Dr Steven Murawski, marine ecologist at the University of South Florida, and Sherry Gilbert, assistant director of the university’s C-IMAGE Consortium in the journal The Conversation.

Image copyright
Sunil Mokshanand

Image caption

Mangroves that are vital for marine ecosystems are also contaminated by the oil spill

“There is other evidence of ongoing and increasing exposures to hydrocarbons over time in economically and environmentally important species like golden tilefish, grouper and hake.”

In 1978, a large crude oil carrier ran aground off the coast of Brittany, France, which leaked nearly 70 million gallons of oil into the sea.

Around 200 miles of the French coast were polluted by the oil slick, and it killed millions of invertebrates, such as molluscs and crustaceans. The spill also killed an estimated 20,000 birds, and contaminated oyster beds in the region.

Experts say that despite best efforts, generally less than 10% of oil spilled in incidents like these is successfully cleaned up.

France has sent a military aircraft with pollution control equipment from its nearby island of Réunion to help with the Mauritian spill, while Japan has sent a six-member team to assist the French efforts. The Mauritius coast guard and several police units are also at the site in the south-east of the island.

“The Mauritian government should do the environmental impact assessment as soon as they can,” said Professor Steiner.

“The impact is likely to remain for years.”



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema

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When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.

Background

Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded

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The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      





Source – observer.ug

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19

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Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  





Source – observer.ug

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