Another spillage in Bhola River
THE latest sinking of a vessel in Bhola River, carrying Muriate of Potash, is a stark reminder that little has been done regarding the rerouting of cargo vessels after the devastating oil spillage in this river only six months ago. That catastrophe has caused major damage to the Sundarbans, especially its aquatic ecosystem. Now the seeping of a chemical fertiliser from the recently sunken ship may cause yet another spate of damage. The water around that area has become reddish indicating the spread of the chemical, which experts say, is toxic to aquatic life. The 500 tonnes (or more) of this chemical will harm fisheries resources, aerial roots, and aquatic animals in the short term. In the long term the chemical will become mixed with the rivers and canals of the Sundarbans affecting the overall biodiversity of the mangrove forest. The area where the vessel sank is a sanctuary for dolphins and one can only imagine how this spillage might affect these beautiful mammals.
The Forest directorate ordered the BITWA to refrain from using the waterways of the Sundarbans as far back as 2011. Environment and wildlife experts have continuously appealed to the government to stop cargo vessels from using the Shila River route, which it did just after last year's oil tanker spillage. Obviously the ban has not been enforced, hence the latest disaster. Unless the government makes sincere efforts to ensure that the relevant official bodies see to it that cargo vessels use alternative routes, there will be more spillages and further irreversible damage to the world's largest mangrove forest.