THERE have been numerous comments and suggestions in both print and electronic media about the impact of the furnace oil-spill in the Sundarbans. But all these seem to miss out three very vital facts from the impact list.
These are: (1) The littoral and sub-littoral zones that include the zone between high tides and low tides and include the vegetation and undergrowth are the spawning ground and nursery for most of the marine fish species. The residue oil sticking to the vegetation, and also getting absorbed in the sandy layers underneath in the affected area, is bound to seriously affect the spawning of the marine fish species drastically, impacting the population of fish species, which will have a negative effect on human nutrition, livelihood and foreign exchange earning of the country.
(2) Hilsa, our national fish of great importance and economic value, ascend freshwater rivers, like the Padma, for spawning purposes. Their migration up the sweet water rivers from the saline water environment of the sea in guided mainly by olfaction -- extra-sensitive faculty of smell -- and partly assisted by equally sensitive lateral line organ. The smell of furnace oil even in minutest quantity in the water is enough to divert the fish, which avoid the current flowing through the Sundarbans and search out sweet water streams of their choice -- in other rivers outside the region.
(3) The life of pelagic and benthic forms depending on planktons are at stake due to this tragic spill-out of furnace oil. And we will be well-advised to remember that the oil-contaminated water of the Sela River is not going to remain the exclusive property/liability of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh; through 'courtesy' of tides and the peculiar property of the ocean current system, this water is going to circulate throughout the whole world's ocean system in greater or lesser degree!
When Unesco and RAMSAR representatives are here, we draw their attention to the vital issues raised above.
The writer is a National Professor, founder of the Faculty of Fisheries, and former Vice-Chancellor of the Bangladesh Agricultural University.