The Balikpapan oil spill off the coast of Borneo in Indonesia covers 120 square kilometers. It has caused the death of 5 individuals, health and economic issues for local communities, just as threatening wildlife and local ecosystems.

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński / Unsplash

An oil spill happened in Balikpapan Bay, in the province of East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo – one of the 17,500 that make up the Indonesian archipelago – at the beginning of Saturday 31 March. The spill ignited, causing flames almost 2 kilometers high according to a senior official from East Borneo's inquiry and rescue agency. It caused the death of five fishermen, just as health and economic issues for at least 900,000 local inhabitants. The spill has spread over an area of 120 square kilometers. An investigation has revealed that the crude oil originated from a fractured pipe in the Tanjung Penajam line of state-claimed energy company Pertamina. Furthermore, the most recent field observations by conservationists from Rare Aquatic Species Indonesia (RASI) affirm that the spill intrusion has gone deep into the estuary ecosystem and mangrove forest.

Balikpapan oil spill, what happened

After the most recent sample of the spill was affirmed as crude oil, Pertamina officially declared that a fractured pipe that had shifted around 120 meters from its original position was the likely culprit. Balikpapan is a significant mining and energy hub, where Pertamina runs one of its main oil refinery facilities.

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Photo by Kai Gradert / Unsplash

The government concluded that the pipe's break was triggered by the activity of a foreign coal vessel, a Panama-flagged MV Ever Judger, that illegally passed through and dropped in the cove. The government is as yet investigating what happened to determine the move to be made towards the vessel's apparent violation. In the meantime, Pertamina has closed the broken pipeline to prevent further leaks.

The emergency response

The government of Indonesia pronounced a state of emergency on 2 April. This choice permitted channeling state funds to empower increasingly coherent and speedier mitigation efforts. The quick response team is led by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and includes the police, navy, national search, and rescue agency, and the local government.

For the restoration efforts, Pertamina, who is receiving help from other oil organizations, has sent four groups to work all the while in four distinct zones, where 15 vessels have been conveyed. As of the evening of 3 April, up to 69,300 cubic meters of crude oil had been collected according to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry's statement. Around 500 volunteers have been recruited to help with the seashore cleanup. These originate from 67 communities ranging from the military, college students and faculty individuals just as businesses. Starting on 6 April, the clean-up process seemed to demonstrate significant outcomes.

The environmental effect of the Balikpapan oil spill

The instance of Balikpapan oil spill, although far less extensive compared the 1989 Exxon Valdez in Alaska or the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is substantial enough to make that environmental recovery could take years, even decades science has increasingly gone to an understanding of the burden that oil spills impose on individuals and ecosystems. From sea biotas, for example, fish, coral reefs, sea mammals, to mangrove forests, just as birds and other migrating wildlife that feed on the sea. The primary day of the spill alone, specimens of the jeopardized endemic species of the bay, the Irrawaddy dolphin, were discovered dead in bad conditions.