Oil spill spreads further, dolphins remain unseen

The oil spill due to Tuesday's tanker vessel mishap has spread further into the canals of the Sundarbans.

Alip Ghatakbdnews24.com
Published : 12 Dec 2014, 05:02 AM
Updated : 12 Dec 2014, 05:02 AM

"Oil is floating (on the water) as far as it can be seen," said forest conservator Karttik Chandra Sarkar.

The oil tanker sank at Chandpai in the Shela River on Tuesday, causing a major oil spill. It was carrying over 350,000 litres of furnace oil.

Forest officials said oil from the vessel had spread across 34,000 hectares of forest area.
The experts fear the spill could have catastrophic effects on the Sundarbans heritage.

The officials said an oil slick was visible on the waters around Mrigmari, Andharmanik, Tambulbunia, Harintana, Jiwdhara, Dhansagar, Nandabala, Harbarhia, Chandpai Forest Station, Marapashur, Jangrha, Karamjal Wildlife Reproduction Centre, Dhangmari, Ghaghramari and Laudob area.

Dolphins used to roam in the waters of Jaimani, known to be a sanctuary for them around the banks of the Shela River. But the creatures have not been seen since the spill, said local fishermen.

The oil was spotted in the water of canals in Jaimani, Mrigmari, Badamtala, Kharma, Ulubunia, Battala, Tetulbunia, Bhaijora, Hetalmari and Jinnat.

Forestry official Karttik said those areas were filled with Sundari trees. Leaves of trees, like Sundari, Kaora, Bain, which are adjacent to river Shela were coated with oil.

In some places, the rising tidal waters had left oil on the aerial mangrove roots and a black layer on the ground.

Nearly 300 families of the Bagerhat's Chila Union live by fishing in the river.

Fisherman Imran Sheikh, 30, told bdnews24.com: "Shela River is overflowing with oil. We are unable to get into the water. Fishing has stopped now."

He feared the catch might not be good in future because of the spill.

Fisherman Rahman Mia, 30, told bdnews24.com: "The river's Jaimani area is a sanctuary for dolphins. Dolphins jump up from the water all the time here. Tourists crowd the place to see them.
"Since the oil spill, they are not jumping up anymore. They've either died or may have moved away. Things will become clear within a few days."
Chila Union Ward No. 7 member Nazrul Islam agreed with Rahman saying, "Not a single dolphin could be seen jumping here due to the floating oil."
Karttik Chandra said, "Harmful effects of the oil will not be apparent at once. It will take time.
"The trees of the Sundarbans can eventually dry up and die due to this oil. The rivers and canals in the Sundarabans houses almost 300 species of fishes. Some smaller species are already dying."
Sundarban's east division forestry official Amir Hussain Chowdhury said, the dolphin sanctuary, covering 31 sq km, is facing the maximum risk. It will become difficult to save the rare species of dolphins if oil is not removed from the river fast.
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Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher