Oil spillage in the Bay
THE shocking part of the latest oil spill in the Bay off Sitakunda in Chittagong, is not that it may have spread over a long stretch, what is totally unacceptable is the lack of confirmed knowledge through any monitoring, let alone a contingency plan to clean up this dangerous mess.
The Daily Star's investigation on Tuesday revealed that boatmen, fishermen and people travelling between Swandip and Chittagong have often seen such oil spills. Last year this paper reported another spill in the same area which just happened to be spotted by a pilot and his passengers when his plane was flying over the area. The spilling therefore, is quite a regular menace that has been virtually allowed to happen.
While the Department of Environment has found some foreign ships guilty of spilling oil and has even fined them for the transgression, it is becoming quite apparent that the regularity of such spillage can be attributed to two sources: the ship breaking industry where ships, including oil tankers, are dismantled without any regard for the chemicals and oils that may leak out; and leakages while unloading stolen oil from oil tankers waiting at the dockyard.
We know what havoc oil spills can wreak on aquatic life as well as the soil where it eventually seeps into. But what are we doing about cleaning it up? We have an impressive Environment Conservation Act (1995) and the DoE has the authority to punish polluters but so far there seems to be no mechanism to remove the spilled oil from the land.
Oil spills are common disasters all over the world but in many countries the government, environmental organisations and people in general have worked together to clean up the slick from the land when it reaches it. For Bangladesh, the measures to be taken are simple. The DoE has to be vigilant about further spills and the spillage from local sources of this insidious poison have to be stopped immediately.