Shipping minister's out of turn comments
THE observations of the house committee on forest and environment ministry, deploring Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan's remarks that the oil spill in the Sundarbans would not adversely affect the world's largest mangrove forest and its biodiversity, echoes our feelings.
The shipping minister has been known for his out of turn comments. And oftentimes he forgets that he firstly represents the people as a minister and instead puts on his labour leader's hat. The most recent was his comment after the Shela river disaster that has put the Sundarbans in serious jeopardy. Shahjahan's statement was not only insensitive it has also exposed an abysmal ignorance on such matters. Fishing nets are not effective protection against oil seepage into the mangrove forest.
It is irksome that not only has he made irresponsible comments after the oil spill, there was an abject lack of preparedness of his ministry to combat such an eventuality. There has been also lack of timely and planned response to stem the effect of the spillage. To see people, mostly on their own accord, cleaning the river manually, speaks volumes of the poor capacity of the ministry to effectively manage the post disaster situation.
While the shipping ministry must answer how come an unfit fifty-year old vessel was carrying such a load through a very sensitive stretch of the forest and also get its act together and mount a coordinated action to minimise the effect of the accident, it should immediately act on the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee to impose a permanent ban on plying of commercial vessels through the Shela River. It must be done to save the Sundarbans.