The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl had been burning for two weeks near the port of Colombo which was carrying 25 tonnes of nitric acid, other chemicals, cosmetics and oil. The 1,486 containers that the ship was carrying tumbled into sea before the fire was put out and part of the ship settled in the sea bed. Burning ship had the possibility to coat the coastal line of Sri Lanka in oil. Sri Lankan authorities have banned fishing in the 50 miles radius where the impact of the spilling of the nitric acid and the plastic pellets can be mostly felt. Not only the danger of an greater oil spill but Sri Lankan western coastline was covered in billions of plastic pellets which are known to be a raw material taken for making plastic shopping bags that are non-biodegradable. The impact of this pollution is mostly felt in the Negambo area, a part of the country with most pristine beaches, and experts say that these pellets could travel as far as India, Indonesia and Somalia. Fearing a possible extra oil spill in addition to the already leaked oil, the authorities had kept the oil dispersants, booms and skimmers stand by.
The most of the environmental damage in and around Sri Lanka’s marine life is at the moment are caused by the nitric acid and the plastic pallets. The beaches can be seen covered with these non-biodegradable plastic pellets. The fact that these are not biodegradable will leave the Sri Lanka’s marine environment polluted forever. According to Charitha Pattiaratchi, a professor of oceanography at the University of Western Australia, there will be extreme environmental impact because of this disaster. With marine environmental pollution, the fishermen in the area are in a dire situation, being unable to go for fishing as usual.
The impact on the marine environment is evident with dead fish and turtles coming ashore and stacking on the island shore demonstrating the magnitude of the impact. Sri Lankan authorities say they would take legal action against the owners, multinational companies, yet that is also a very bleak picture with power imbalance and lack of advanced environmental laws affecting disasters of this magnitude. X-Press Pearl disaster impacted Sri Lanka beyond a compensation. The balance of the entire ecological system interrupted and non-biodegradable waste piling up in the coastal lines, fear lurking these will later enter into Kelani river and the Negambo lagoon. Sri Lanka has to take action to get the best support system that can enable the cleaning of the Southern coastal belt and expert knowledge as to how to manage this disaster with minimizing the harm. The lesson here to learn is to always take precautionary action and take smart decisions that will enable environmental friendly actions, without making financial benefit a high priority. It is always paramount to understand environmental cost, because most of the time after an incident like the X-Press Pearl, the impact is irreversible.