Oil slick clean-up effort frustrating

Tritiyomatra News from Daily Newage
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A village boy is working for collecting slicked oil from Shela River

Irrawaddy dolphin or Shushok that typically wandered around in Shela and adjacent rivers and canals has been out of sight in the 60 kilometres area in Sundarban for past four days raising fears that the oil spilled in the river by the sunken tanker Southern Star-7 might have taken a toll on marine life.The owners of the oil tanker, which capsized in river Shela early Tuesday, on Friday claimed that almost the entire amount of 3.57 lakh liters of furnace oil carried by the tanker had spilled into the water after the . capsize.Witnesses, local government representatives and green activists said that small fishes and snakes were dying for the adverse effect of the oil floating on the rivers that include the largest one of the three dolphin sanctuaries in Sundarbans.
‘Our oil tanker, OT Southern Star-7, carrying 3.57 lakh litres of furnace oil from Khulna depot of Padma Oil Company to a power plant in Gopalganj, sank in Shela river in Sundarbans early Tuesday. The company experts have examined it after salvage and found only around 400 litres of oil in it,’ Md Giasuddin, managing director of Harun and Company that owns the oil tanker, said.He said that the master of the sunken oil tanker, Mokhlesur Rahman, still remained ‘missing’.An earlier decision that the salvage ship Kandari-10 would use chemicals to neutralise the oil, was suspended temporarily in the face of the opposition from the forest and environment departments as they wanted to examine the chemical to determine whether it was harmful to the forest’s flora and fauna and the environment,’ Mongla Port Authority chairman commodore Habibur Rahman Bhuian told New Age.
He said the departments had collected samples and visited the affected areas on Friday and already sent their findings to the ministry concerned. ‘We are expecting their direction anytime to work accordingly.’The MPA chairman said that the villagers were taking seepage off the river water and, to his knowledge, Padma Oil Company bought a few thousand litres of the furnace oil collected by the locals.Chila union parishad chairman Md Shafiqul Islam Russell told New Age that he had found villagers selling about 700 liters of furnace oil they had collected to Padma Oil Company at a rate of Tk 30 per litre.
‘The situation is devastating. The clean-up efforts are too little to tackle the situation. The delay would certainly take a huge toll on nature. Small fishes and invertebrates are dying. No fish is available in the affected areas and the fishermen are the worst affected,’ Sundarbans Watch Group member secretary Hasan Mehedi told New Age. He said that no Irrawaddy dolphins could be seen in past four days in the affected waters.
The Chila union parishad chairman corroborated the claims.Government officials in Khulna and Bagerhat, however, skipped questions on the issue.The MPA chairman said that two expert probe teams – one from the environment and forest ministry and the other from the shipping ministry – had visited the affected areas Friday and they would submit their findings to the respective ministries.The port authority would join the clean-up operation using their own vessels on Saturday, he said.He said that the floating oil was still spreading affecting more areas.On Thursday, forest department officials in Khulna said that the oil spill spread over 60 kilometres of the rivers. The affected rivers include Shela, a part of Passure and its adjacent canals flowing through Sunderban.
Thick black layer of the furnace oil was seen on the tree trunks on the riverbank and on the shorelines in the affected areas, including parts of Sunderban, and it was affecting lives of the people in nearby villages, locals said.The government on Friday cancelled all holidays of forest and environment departments in Khulna region until further order, Sunderban west zone divisional forest officer Zahir Uddin Ahmed told New Age.
According to forest department’s primary estimate, about 24,000 hectares of Sunderban had been directly affected by the oil spill and the losses would be over Tk 100 crore.On Friday, different organisations in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country demanded a permanent ban on plying of ships and other vessels through Sunderban channels and cancellation of all industrial projects near the mangrove forest.In Dhaka, Sunderban Rakkha Jatiya Committee and Biggyan Andolan Mancha formed separate human chains in front of the National Press Club Friday morning to press the demands to save Sunderban. In Barisal city, the district unit of Biggyan Andolan Mancha formed a human chain in front of Ashwini Kumar Hall to press home the demand.

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