Japan is proposing manually wiping down mangrove trees to remove from their roots any oil that was spilled from a grounded Japanese freighter off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, a source familiar with the matter said Saturday.
The idea, which was suggested by Japan at a Mauritian government task force meeting in late August, also involves removing any fallen leaves covered in oil. The work would be conducted by a firm entrusted by the island nation and it is up to the Mauritian government to adopt the measure, the source said.
On July 25, the bulk carrier Wakashio transporting a total of some 3,800 tons of fuel oil and 200 tons of diesel, operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., ran aground near Pointe d'Esny, designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
More than 1,000 tons of oil began leaking from the vessel on Aug. 6.
According to the Japanese Environment Ministry, high-pressure washing apparatuses or chemicals should not be used to remove oil from mangrove trees as they could damage them.
Japanese experts dispatched as members of a disaster relief team have confirmed the effectiveness of manually wiping the roots down by testing the method by themselves.
Tokyo is considering dispatching additional experts specializing in birds and wildlife after the Mauritian government requested research into the effects of the oil spill on its native fauna.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of protesters gathered Saturday in the Mauritian capital Port Louis to accuse the government of being slow in responding to the oil spill. They demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and government officials over the incident.
A lawsuit has been filed against the country's fisheries minister Sudheer Maudhoo and environment minister Kavydass Ramano to pursue the government's responsibility. The two were summoned to appear in court on Aug. 21.
Some protesters called for an investigation into the deaths of around 40 dolphins, which had washed ashore as of Saturday. Others have focused on the government's failure to provide a sufficient alert to the ship before it initially ran ashore.
The government has denied the claims, insisting it had signaled a warning to the carrier but received no answer. The oil removal process has seen delays due to poor weather conditions, it added.