Mauritians donating hairs for clean-up of Japanese ship oil spill in its waters

Mauritians are taking extra-ordinary steps to counter the crisis generated because of oil leak in their pristine Indian Ocean beaches.

Since last week, the MV Wakashio, owned by the Nagashiki Shipping Company and operated by Mitsui OSK Line, began oozing fuel into turquoise sea waters after hitting a reef off the island. At least 1,000 tonnes of oil are estimated to have leaked, with 500 tonnes salvaged and some 2,500 tonnes remaining.

The oil spill is near the Blue Bay Marine Park, known for its spectacular corals and myriad fish species. In order to protect its earlier untouched beaches, Mauritians are making floating booms of human hair and leaves in a round-the-clock scramble to mop up the leaking oil from the Japanese ship.

Akihiko Ono, Executive Vice President of Mitsui OSK Lines, said, “We apologise profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused.”

The environmental group Greenpeace has said the oil spill has the potential to transform into a major ecological crisis and understanding the seriousness of the issue, the Mauritian government has declared a state of emergency.

Several people voluntarily engaged themselves in cleaning the black sludge from mangrove swamps. Mauritians are making booms to float on the sea out of sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and hair that people were voluntarily cutting off.

The use of hair brooms has been popularised during the crisis and calls for campaigns to go around the island to get hair has been made as hair absorbs oil and not water. Diving centres, fishermen and others have all joined in the clean-up effort.

Mauritius relies on tourism as a major contributor to its economy, 63 billion rupees ($1.6 billion) last year.

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