'Catastrophic' Bangladesh oil spill threatens dolphins

2014-12-11 16:11
A Bangladeshi oil-tanker lies half-submerged after it was hit by a cargo vessel on the Shela River in the Sundarbans in Mongla. (STR, AFP)

A Bangladeshi oil-tanker lies half-submerged after it was hit by a cargo vessel on the Shela River in the Sundarbans in Mongla. (STR, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Dhaka - An oil spill from a crashed tanker in Bangladesh is threatening endangered dolphins and other wildlife in the vast Sundarbans delta, officials warned on Thursday, branding the leak an ecological "catastrophe".

The tanker was carrying an estimated 357 000 litres of oil when it sank in the Sundarbans' Shela river, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins, after colliding with another vessel on Tuesday.

Rescue vessels have now salvaged the tanker, but officials said the damage had already been done as the slick had spread to a second river and a network of canals in the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, which straddles India and Bangladesh.

"It's a catastrophe for the delicate ecology of the Sundarbans," the area's chief forest official Amir Hossain told AFP.

"The oil spill has already blackened the shoreline, threatening trees, plankton, vast populations of small fishes and dolphins."

Hossain said the oil had already spread over a 60km long area of the Sundarbans.

Spread over 10 000km2, the Sundarbans is a Unesco-listed World Heritage Site and home to hundreds of Bengal tigers. The delta comprises a network of rivers and canals.

The accident occurred inside one of three sanctuaries set up for the dolphins, said Rubayat Mansur, Bangladesh head of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

Small scale clean-up

The three areas were declared dolphin sanctuaries in 2011 after studies found they are home to some 6 000 of the animals. Fishing is banned there, but tankers and other boats are allowed to pass through.

Speaking to AFP from the accident site, Mansur labelled the spill a "national disaster" and accused authorities of not doing enough to contain the damage.

"There are no coordinated efforts to tackle the disaster. The air has become toxic and we got news from fishermen they've seen dead fish. Crabs, which make up the largest single group in the forest are facing the biggest threat," he said.

"And if crabs are hit, the dolphins and tigers will be affected. Dolphins will find it very difficult to breathe this foul air," he added.

Authorities have launched a small-scale clean-up, but warned they lack the hardware and experience for a major effort.

"The tanker has been dragged to the shore. Two tanks housing 120 000 litres of oil remained intact, but the other four tanks with two-thirds of the ship's 357 000 litres of oil have already been spilled," shipping ministry spokesperson Rafiqul Islam told AFP.

Islam said a government ship carrying 10 000 litres of oil dispersants would reach the spot within hours to begin a more substantial clean-up.

"The oil dispersants would break the spilled oils into droplets," he said, adding authorities have banned ships from using the Shela river channel until further notice.

Bangladesh's state-run petroleum corporation was also using buoys to restrict the slick, while local fishermen have been ordered to use nets to try to stop the oil entering small canals.

Read more on:    bangladesh  |  pollution  |  marine life  |  environment

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.