SL still grapples to get US$7- 10 b compensation for X-Press Pearl sinking
More than a year since the sinking of the cargo ship the X-Press Pearl , Sri Lanka still continues to clean its beaches of the plastic pellets that the vessel was carrying, and still trying to claim compensation for the environmental damage.
Auditor General Chulantha Wickramaratne has called for a full investigation into the process of obtaining compensation for environmental damage caused by the sinking of the X-Press Pearl ship last year, according to official sources.
A Maritime law expert said Sri Lankan authorities have taken a long time to file for compensation and are reluctant to go through years of strenuous legal battles in international courts.
Sri Lanka has obtained an interim payment of $3.7 million in damages, but the country could claim as much as $5 billion to $7 billion.
With Sri Lanka currently mired in the worst economic crisis in the country’s history, those higher numbers would prove a much-needed injection of foreign currency.
But further delays would diminish the cash-strapped island’s chance of getting sufficient compensation for the environmental damage
Meanwhile, Environmental Scientist Hemantha Withanage said Sri Lanka could claim as much as US$ 10 billion as compensation.
Laboratory tests conducted on samples of plastic pellets collected from the beach had revealed a high concentration of harmful chemical compounds such as Bisphenol and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Withanage said.
“Both these chemical compounds remain in the environment for a long time, resulting in bio accumulation.
The scope of our tests was limited due to financial constraints, but there can be more such toxic chemical compounds in the debris. People are not aware of the danger,” he added.
Withanage had also spent time and resources to rescue the crew on board the distressed vessel, douse the fire, and mitigate environment
“The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) and the AG’s Department have not taken legal action and we may ultimately lose the opportunity to do so,” he alleged, calling for a Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate the matter.
He said two petitions had been filed in the Appeal Court and another petition in the Supreme Court over the X-Press Pearl disaster.
The ill-fated ship was carrying 81 containers of dangerous goods and contained 25 tons of nitric acid.The affected area encompasses 746 km from Mannar to Kirinda Hambantota.
An expert committee investigating the extent of damage to the country’s marine and coastal environment has now concluded the disaster to be the worst in terms of chemical and plastic pollution of the sea.
That’s according to Ajith de Alwis, co-chair of the X-Press Pearl damage assessment committee and a professor of chemical and process engineering at the University of Moratuwa.
The committee has submitted its assessment report to the Attorney General’s Office for use in claiming compensation from the Singapore-based operators of the ship.
“However, the report is only the first edition of the damage assessment, and further assessments would continue based on the monitoring,” De Alwis said