Oil spill takes toll on aquatic life
The Shela river oil spill in the Sundarbans will have a long-term effect on the aquatic life, and food for fish in the water body has already went down by 80 percent, says a Khulna University study.
About 3.58 lakh litres of furnace oil from a tanker that sank on December 9 has hampered the growth of planktons -- marine and freshwater organisms that are the base of food web in an aquatic environment.
“If planktons grow less, aquatic species like fish would get less food and it would have an impact on other species dependant on fish,” said Dr Muhammad Abdur Rouf of fisheries and marine resource technology discipline at Khulna University.
A 15-member team led by Dr Rouf found in its study that two types of planktons -- phytoplankton and zooplankton -- have decreased in the river by around 40pc and 80pc respectively.
Phytoplankton, a plant-like community of plankton, is the food for zooplankton while fishes consume zooplankton.
Seven days after the tanker accident, the team found 600 phytoplanktons and 100 zooplanktons per litre of the river water.
In previous years, the number of phytoplankton used to be 1,000 to 2,000 and zooplankton 500 to 600 per litre of water during the winter season.
Besides, aquatic species that have failed to migrate must have consumed oil, which will have a negative effect on their life cycle and their population, he added.
Yesterday, some fishermen were seen going to the river for netting, but their catch was very low as the Shela and the Pashur and adjoining canals were still carrying the oil spilled from the tanker.
Amir Hossain Chowdhury, divisional forest officer of Sundarbans east zone, said, “Now it is the time for fishing as the spring tide has started in the river. But the catch of the fishermen are very poor.”
OTTERS FOUND DEAD
Meanwhile, two otters were found dead and floating in the Shela river and Chototengra canal yesterday. After autopsy, furnace oil was found in the mouth cavities of the animals, forest officials said.
“Me and Dr Manirul of Jahangirnagar University found a dead otter in the Shela near Andharmanik,” said Mehedi Hasan, a wildlife officer of Chandpai station.
Another otter was found by a team, formed by the forest department to find out wildlife death due to the oil spill.
“Oil was also found in the furs of the dead otters,” said Mafizur Rahman Chowdhury, fisheries officer and member of the probe team.
UNDP TEAM'S VISIT TOMORROW
A team of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) comprising officials and experts from different international organisations is expected to visit the affected areas in the Sundarbans tomorrow.
“Basically, the UNDP team would try to assess the extent of damage due to the oil spill and what measures can be taken immediately to recover from it. They would also try to figure out if the local community living around the forest needs any support for their livelihood during the interim period,” said an official.
Besides, the UN team would also support the government's clean-up efforts.
Three representatives of the UN delegation held a meeting with officials of the Department of Forest and the Department of Environment at the auditorium of the DoF office yesterday afternoon. They later met Environment and Forests Minister Anwar Hossain Manju.
The UN team is scheduled to visit the affected areas on a boat from Dangmari to Harbaria point in the Pashur river and up to the Harintana forest station, starting from the confluence of the Shela and the Pashur, says a Mongla port source.