Goa continues to face naphtha crisis, Oppn slams CM

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant (PTI Photo)

More than a fortnight after a tanker carrying naphtha ran aground in the bay off the Goa Governor's official residence Raj Bhavan, the state government's belated decision to look at Singapore-based marine engineering firms for salvaging of the stranded vessel has raised eyebrows.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant's belated decision to hire "professionals" for the task, two days after former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik assumed the gubernatorial mantle in Goa, has led the Congress to allege, that Sawant no longer calls the shots in the state administration and that the BJP-led state government is now being run by Malik himself.

Former deputy chief minister Vijai Sardesai of the Goa Forward party also slammed Sawant for endangering Goa to the hazards of pollution—the tanker's cargo contains 2500 tons of naphtha, apart from 50 tons of oil and around 20 tons of diesel — on account of the MV Nu Shi Nalini, which drifted due to stormy conditions caused by Cyclone Kyarr and ran itself aground on a rocky shelf in the seas just off Panaji.

"Sawant seems to be no longer taking decisions, after the new Governor's arrival. He has been making a mockery of the ecological crisis which stares at Goa on account of the stranded naphtha vessel. For two weeks now there is no headway. The boat is still there carrying its deadly cargo," Congress spokesperson Trajano D'Mello said.

"Now with the new Governor taking charge, he appears to have sidelined Sawant and given a new direction to the salvaging efforts by getting the government to hire Singapore-based experts to tackle the crisis," D'Mello also told reporters here on Wednesday.

After the tanker ran aground on October 26, there was a multi-agency salvaging operation involving the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and officials of the Mormugao Port Trust and the state government, but the mission was not a success owing to multiple factors, including low depth of the waters near the tanker, poor weather conditions, and a minor accident.

But the overall failure to fully tackle the crisis has led to severe criticism of the ability of the Sawant-led government. "This government is putting the state to huge risk," Sardesai said.

Sawant has however maintained, that while the salvaging operation has been delayed, there was no risk to the coastline on account of the naphtha. "The ship has already mounted the shelf and is not facing any further risk. The naphtha tanks are inerted and the nitrogen levels are up to standard. We have taken care of that,” Sawant has said, adding that the situation was being monitored 24x7.

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