• Kyodo

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Japanese experts are proposing wiping down mangrove trees in Mauritius by hand to remove oil spilled by a Japanese freighter that ran aground off the tropical island, a source familiar with the matter said Saturday.

The idea for cleaning the trees’ roots, recently suggested by Japan at a Mauritian government task force meeting, also involves removing any fallen leaves covered in oil. The work would be conducted by a firm chosen by the island nation and it is up to its government to adopt the measure, the source said.

On July 25, the bulk carrier Wakashio, transporting some 3,800 tons of fuel oil and 200 tons of diesel, ran aground near Pointe d’Esny, a wetland of international importance as designated under the Ramsar Convention.

More than 1,000 tons of oil from the ship, run by Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd., began leaking into the Indian Ocean on Aug. 6.

According to Japan’s Environment Ministry, high-pressure washing machines 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 specialists in birds and wildlife after the Mauritian government requested research into how the oil spill might impact 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 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 that had washed ashore as of Saturday. Others have focused on the government’s failure to provide sufficient warning to the ship before it ran ashore.

The government has denied the claims, insisting it sent warning signals to the carrier but received no answer. The oil-removal process has been delayed by poor weather, it added.

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