Though experts think, cargo vessels plying through the Sundarbans' rivers are like “mobile bombs” for the tigers, the vessel owners are putting pressure on the government, demanding to reopen the Shela river route for cargo operations.
The government suspended the operations on March 23, following the accident of coal-laden cargo MV Sea Horse near Harintana on March 19.
Inland Water Transport Owners from Khulna division and other business groups made the demand at a joint press conference held at Khulna Press club yesterday morning.
The government has opened alternative Mongla-Ghosiakhali channel after dredging, but vessels with more than 10 feet draft are unable to operate through it, they said.
“Around 70 percent vessels are unable to come to Khulna, Mongla, and Nowapara from Chittagong, Dhaka and Sylhet,” said advocate Saiful Islam, secretary general of the coordination committee, who read out the statement.
The Sundarbans cannot be more important than life and livelihoods of people, it read.
However, the experts have been warning the government to stop the cargo vessel operations through the Sundarbans.
A recent report titled, “The status of Tigers in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh and India” published last week, states the usage of water channels inside this forest as conduit for commercial boat traffic is a threat to this landscape. Over 200 vessels ply everyday through the Shela and Passur rivers located in and near the Chandpai-Sarankhola range of Bangladesh Sundarbans.
These constant boat movements can become potential barriers to dispersal between islands, leading to fragmented and isolated tiger populations, it said.
Currently there are total 182 tigers with 106 in Bangladesh and 76 in Indian side of the Sundarbans. The report was published in India during a ministerial conference on Tiger, held in Delhi.
Expressing concerns about the Rampal power plant, it said, the 1,320 MW coal based plant, along with the already established busy Mongla Port would only exacerbate this problem.