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Fishermen risk life cleaning oil for Rs 750/day

Deprived of their regular livelihood, they had to take on the clean-up work with hand gloves and some jugs. Masks of poor quality distributed and PPEs yet to arrive

Fishermen risk life cleaning oil for Rs 750/day

Clean-up work of the crude oil spill going on from Kosasthalaiyar River on Wednesday (Photos: Hemanathan M)

CHENNAI: Forced away from their traditional occupation for more than 20 days due to incessant rains, flooding and crude oil spillage, fishermen in Ennore have taken up gigs to clean the oil from Kosasthalaiyar River for a meagre Rs 750 per day, with nothing but jugs to clean-up.

They’re at risk for developing a rash or skin irritation or have other allergic reactions. Skin contact with crude oil for a prolonged period can cause reddening, swelling, and burning. It can get worse if the oil-soaked skin is exposed to the sun.

A fisherman engaged in the clean-up work on Wednesday, said that they live by daily income and not by savings. “We earn daily and spend daily. For the last 20 days, we could not fish in the river. Since there are no other options to make money, we took this up,” he lamented.

While around 60 boats (3 to 4 persons per boat) engaged in the clean-up work on Tuesday, over 100 boats participated in the work on Wednesday. However, fishermen were seen without any protective gear, except hand gloves, while handling the spilled oil.

S Kumarasen, a fisherman from Kattukuppam, said that leaders of the community had requested the fishermen from all the 8 villages along the river not to engage in the clean-up work until authorities hand over protective equipment.

“Out of sheer desperation, many of us took up this clean-up work despite having no protection. We have petitioned the authorities demanding helmets, gloves, rubber shoes, mask and full length protection dress (PPE). They have assured that the equipment will be given by the end of Wednesday,” he added.

While officials handed over some gloves and masks in the evening, fishermen noted that the masks were of lower quality and sought replacement. Rubber boots too were distributed to fishermen on Thursday.

“Officials claim that orders have been given for PPEs but it will take a few days to arrive,” Kumaresan said.

Rudhran Baraasu
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