Halt vessel movement thru' Sundarbans
An expert team of the United Nations has suggested that the government take legislative measures to avoid shipping through the Sundarbans to save the World Heritage Site.
Emilia Wahlstrom, chief of joint UN-Bangladesh response mission on the Sundarbans, said this in a briefing at a city hotel yesterday following a week-long visit to the world's largest mangrove forest to assess the impact of the recent oil spill.
“It is an initial report over the oil spill in the Sundarbans and the final one will be made public after two weeks,” she said.
Regarding the fallout of the accident, Wahlstrom said, the immediate visible impact of the spill was "limited", thanks to some circumstantial factors.
Timely tidal variations and the decision to ban tanker traffic in the Shela river minimised the penetration of oil into the ecosystem, the team observed.
However, the accident must be considered serious as it occurred in a wildlife sanctuary and world heritage site -- treasured for its unique biodiversity, they added.
Wahlstrom said it is not possible to determine the actual impact from a single sample testing.
“We need to continue the monitoring to find long-term impact of the incident on the Sundarbans,” she added.
Environment and Forest Minister Anwar Hossain Manju; his deputy Abdullah Al Islam Jacob; Nazibor Rahman, secretary of the ministry; and Beatrice Kaldune, acting UN resident coordinator, were also present at the briefing.
Claiming that the government was placing the highest importance on the issue, Manju said, "We are discussing different options for carrying goods to the Mongla port without using the Shela river.”
The government would work as per the recommendations of experts to minimise the damage and protect the Sundarbans, the minster said.
The Southern Star-7 sank in the Shela with 3.58 lakh litres of furnace oil on December 9.
Besides studying the environment and wildlife, the joint team of 25 experts from home and abroad studied the impact of the oil spill on human health as well.