News Excerpt
Russia declared a state of emergency after a massive oil spill in the Arctic region.

Reason: Oil Spill in Russia
•    Climate Change: The thermoelectric power plant at Norilsk is built on permafrost, which has weakened over the years due to the adverse impact of climate change.
•    This caused the pillars that supported the plant’s fuel tank to sink, leading to a loss of containment.
•    Around 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil were released into the Ambarnaya river, which has since drifted 12 km on its surface.

Permafrost
    Permafrost is ground that remains completely frozen at 0°C or below for at least two years. It is defined solely based on temperature and duration.
    The permanently frozen ground, consisting of soil, sand, and rock held together by ice, is believed to have formed during glacial periods dating several millennia.
    These grounds are known to be below 22 % of the land surface on Earth, mostly in polar zones and regions with high mountains.
    They are spread across 55 % of the landmass in Russia and Canada, 85 per cent in the US state of Alaska, and possibly the entirety of Antarctica.
    In northern Siberia, it forms a layer that is 1,500 m thick; 740 m in northern Alaska. At lower latitudes, permafrost is found at high altitude locations such as the Alps and the Tibetan plateau.
    While permafrost itself is always frozen, the surface layer that covers it (called the“active layer”) need not be. In Canada and Russia, for example, colourful tundra vegetation carpet overpermafrost for thousands of kilometres.
    Its thickness reduces progressively towards the south, and is affected by a numberof other factors, including the Earth’s interior heat, snow and vegetation cover, presence of water bodies, and topography.


Impact of Oil Spill
    Oil spills have a number of effects on the environment and economy. Oil spill damages waterways, marine life and plants and animals on the land.
    The impact of oil spills can also ruin the infrastructure and economy of a particular area with long-term effects being felt for decades.
    The effects of oil spills on wildlife can in turn adversely affect humans. For instance-the contamination of local ecosystems can impact communities who rely on said ecosystems to survive, with crops and food sources becoming poisonous or disappearing altogether as a result of food chains being de-stabilised.
    Oil spills can affect the air quality in surrounding areas, releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.


Way forward
In case of accidental oil leakages, in-situ bioremediation to clean up hazardous compounds present in the environment can be used. The optimization and control of microbial transformations of organic contaminants requires the integration of many scientific and engineering disciplines.