Panaji: Over the past few days, tarballs have washed up along many South Goa beaches. But don't panic, says the state government, it happens every year.
These days, vast stretches of the beaches are covered with thick oil washed ashore in the form of tarballs. Worried that the black beaches may affect tourism, the state government insists this is not an unusual phenomenon.
"I don't agree this is a disaster. This has been happening year after year and is a natural phenomenon. Please let us not blow this out of proportion as Goa depends on tourism," Alex Sequeira, Goa Environment Minister, said.
Scientists admit that in the monsoons some oil from passing ships does get washed ashore, but this time the scale of the problem is unusually high.
Arvind Saran, scientist at the National Institute of Oceanography, said: "This phenomenon occurs during monsoons, especially between May and October."
Studies done by experts indicate that tarballs have been observed since the 1970s along the coast of Goa, especially during the monsoons. So where do these tarballs come from and why are they seen only in the monsoons?
Tarballs are caused when an oil slick occurs close to coastline. A common cause for such slicks is the dumping of oil by errant passing ships that violate international rules, especially when they need clean tanks.
Under the influence of strong winds and waves that are common during the monsoon season, this oil gets transported towards the coast causing beaches to turn black.
So what's the solution? As the state government has called for a massive clean-up operation, the key worry is if the beaches will get cleaned up in time for the tourist season.