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Oil Spill From Sanchi May Have Reached Japan
By Andy Rowell
Oil from the stricken oil tanker Sanchi, which exploded and sank in the East China Sea, may have now reached the shores of Japan, according to the country's Coast Guard.
Officials are now checking to find out whether the oil is from the Iranian registered tanker, which was carrying an estimated 136,000 tonnes of condensate when it sank in mid-January, with the loss of all 32 members of the crew. It also had nearly 1,900 tonnes of bunker fuel oil on board.
It is unknown if the ultra light condensate could form black oily clumps or if indeed this is even the heavier bunker oil. But if the oil has come from the Sanchi, then this would be a serious setback for Japanese authorities, who said last month that there was little chance the spill would reach the county's shores.
This optimism, however, was contradicted by scientists from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the University of Southampton in the UK. As I reported earlier in the week, they plotted the path of the spill and believed it could reach Japanese shores "within a month."
If this is indeed condensate from the Sanchi, then the speed of the spill will also alarm authorities and scientists alike, as it has reached Japan faster than the models predicted.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Transport said Thursday at a press conference that more than 225 square nautical miles (770 square kilometers) of affected waters "had been restored."
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture is also claiming that from over 100 marine samples, "no abnormalities" had been found so far, and they would keep on monitoring. A 30 nautical mile exclusion zone remains around the site of the accident with fishing prohibited.
Earlier this week, an Iranian member of the multinational team set up to investigate the accident said his government was now studying the black box data recorder from the tanker to find out how and why the accident happened.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Will Sarni
It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.
The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future
We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.
"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.
One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.
Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.
Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.
These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.
We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).
We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.
We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.
Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.
Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
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