This photo shows oil tanker, Southern Star-7, carrying 3.58 lakh litres of furnace oil, sinks in the Shela river in Sundarbans after being hit by a cargo vessel in Mongla early Tuesday. Photo: Star
A large oil spill in the Sundarbans today continued to spread through a wide network of rivers and channels criss-crossing the world's largest mangrove forest endangering its rich biodiversity, a day after an oil tanker carrying 350,000 litres of furnace oil sank in a river.
Forest officials said oil spread over a 25-kilometre stretch while the slick was gradually engulfing more areas exposing authorities to a state of virtual helplessness to combat the situation.
"We have sought a machine from (northeastern) Chittagong Port (authority) to remove the oil.It is on its way," administrative chief of the region or divisional commissioner, Abdus Samad, told media.
He said that Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has also sent two vessels to retrieve the tanker and "the rescue vessels too are on their way to the scene".
The Commander of navy's Khulna region Monir Mallick said that they were planning to use ancient method of using bamboos and banana trees to remove the oil from the water surface.
But eyewitnesses said they saw no tangible initiative to retrieve the sunken vessel or remove the spill till mid-day.
"With lack of logistics to deal with such a situation, the forest department so far could do nothing to stop oil from spreading through the river and canal networks," one of the eyewitnesses said.
A Coastguard official said oil slick was nearing the crucial Shoronkhola Range of Sundarbans while it overnight blackened waters up to the Pasur River on one side stretching over 20 kilometres from Mrigamari in the Shela River, where the accident took place.
Mrigamari is a sanctuary for dolphins while experts said the spill would leave a severe impact also on other aquatic animals and fishes of the Sundarbans.
But forest officials said they could not determine yet the exact extent of the spill but feared if the spill continued to spread it might deal a serious blow to the biodiversity of the forest.
The forest department has set up a three-member committee for the investigation into the capsize of the oil tanker that sank after a collision with a cargo vessel early yesterday.
"We (forest department) have also lodged a general diary with police against the owners of the two ships involved in collision," a forest department spokesman told reporters in Dhaka.
The tanker began leaking its cargo soon after it sank while initial reports suggested an empty cargo vessel hit it from the back apparently due to loss of visibility caused by dense winter fog.
The tanker's owner, on the other hand, has filed a criminal case against the cargo vessel owner with Mongla Police Station.
The Sundarbans forest, which cover 26,000 square kilometres in India and Bangladesh, is also the habitat of famous Royal Bengal Tigers
Source: outlook india. 10 December 2014