Oil from three wagons of a train that plunged into a canal in Boalkhali upazila of Chittagong on Friday afternoon has spread to the adjacent areas and the Karnaphuli river, posing a serious threat to the environment.
There was oil all around the spot where the wagons fell. Oil not only spread to around 20 kilometres area of the canal, it also entered nearby vegetable gardens and water bodies due to the tide, said locals.
Muktul Hossain, a local, said oil entered into his cucumber field, around 1km off the spot.
During a visit to Pashchim Shakpura area, where the canal merges with the Karnaphuli river, layers of the oil were seen flowing into the river. According to locals, oil slicks started floating towards the river since Friday evening.
Although no dead fish was seen while travelling around 4km of the canal by boat, Gopan Jaladas, a fisherman who was catching fish in the canal, told this correspondent that he found some shrimps floating on the canal.
Three of the derailed tanker wagons plunged into the canal following the collapse of a railway bridge in Kitabchar area. Two of them sank in the canal. A third was partially submerged while a fourth one had tilted sideways.
Railway authorities had already removed the fourth wagon yesterday, railway sources said.
Oil from the three wagons might already have spilled, said a high official of the railways, seeking anonymity.
“Our first priority is to fix the line and salvage the engine,” said Mafizur Rahman, Chittagong Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) of Railway's East Zone.
To do this, he said, two wagons (partially submerged one and the other one that tilted) had to be salvaged first and it would take at least two days to do so.
Pulling out the other two wagons would take at least five to seven days, Rahman added.
The canal flows to the Karnaphuli river, some 10 to 12km off the spot.
Railway sources said each of the wagons was carrying around 25,000 litres of furnace oil.
Three people, including the train's Loco Master Sahidullah and Assistant Loco Master Zafar, were hurt in the accident.
Movement of a pair of trains, that ply the route, remained suspended.
Meanwhile, experts apprehended that biodiversity of the area and also the Karnaphuli river would be affected seriously.
“The spread of oil will badly affect the fertility of the soil in the area,” said Prof Alok Pal of Geography and Environmental Studies Department at Chittagong University.
He said the railway authorities should be more careful regarding this kind of incidents.
Halda expert Manzoorul Kibria Monzoorul Kibria, also an associate professor of Zoology department at Chittagong University, said the impact of this spill on the environment would be serious.
“From plankton to fishes -- all will be affected by this oil spillage,” said Kibria.
The oil spill would affect the process of oxygen getting dissolved in the water, he said.
The accident occurred due to the negligence of the authorities concerned, said Mokbul Hossain, director of the Department of Environment (Chittagong region) while talking to reporters at the spot yesterday.
The oil slick had spread to vast areas due to tides, he said.
Legal action would be taken against those responsible for the damage of the environment, he said.