A “Toxic Ship”: The cause of an environmental disaster

Earlier this month, on May 20, 2021, a cargo ship caught on fire off the coast of Sri Lanka. The ship was on its way from Qatar to Singapore. This fire was caused due to an acid leak that began 11 days before the fire. The fire could lead to an environmental disaster that could stay alive for decades. It burned on the Sri Lankan coast for days, filling the surrounding atmosphere with thick black smoke. The ship, 'X-Press Pearl', has now sunk and is now resting on the ocean bed.

Although the ship has now sunk, there are many new problems emerging from this incident. One of which is the pollution left from the fire and destruction of the ship. Much debris can be seen floating near the water site of the cargo ship. Tons of plastic pellets can be seen washed up onto nearby beaches. Chemicals on the cargo ship leaked into the ocean as well, thus sparking fear in civilians and specialists that poison could’ve leaked into marine life - corals, fish, and turtles. The cargo ship fuel (350 tons) in the hull could also cause long-term, devastating damage.

There are several other mortifying consequences other than the abrupt deterioration of the environment. These consequences include the negative repercussions on the fisherman job market and on general food chains. The consequences of these events endure in the long term, so the impact this has on the oceanic ecosystem is critically severe. As a result, fishing has been banned across the western coastline for about 50 miles due to health concerns as the fish could be harmful. However, cutting off coastlines could mean harming communities that run on fishing.

The Navy has been called out to help clean as the ship was carrying lots of hazardous materials: nitric acid, ethanol, epoxy resins, and lead ingots. The materials of the containers on the ship were apparently kept anonymous. Experts say that the leakage and the destruction of the environment could lead to a permanent blow to the reputation of Sri Lanka, as the country was already battling the pandemic. This means that they do not have the manpower to clean up the mess entirely.

It's perhaps most important to recognize how self-damaging this is. The way we humans pollute the ocean in any possible way (it being oil spills, plastic pollution, etc.) harms the marine ecosystem, and hence, our sea-food supplies are too, which harm us instead. Polluted fish has been found to cause liver problems and diseases such as hyperplasia, ulceration in between others. This exact same issue severely occurs in the rivers of the Amazon rainforest, where mercury used by illegal miners ends up all over the river basin, contaminating the fish and the rest of the food chain. This has led to the banning of subsistence fishing in some areas because mercury poisoning is very common.

Hence, we as humans need to realize how our impact on the environment is profoundly self-destructive. Once we realize this entirely, climate action will come increasingly effective as the globe gets together. Yet, at the moment, this issue just stands as another obstacle down the road as ignorance still reigns society.