Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bangladesh Oil Spill Threatens Sunderbans Wildlife

Bangladeshi tanker sinking in the Sundarbans' Sela River

The Sundarbans region in India and Bangladesh has recently been hit hard by a devastating oil spill after a tanker carrying 92,000 gallons of furnace oil sank in the Sela River after slamming into another vessel. Local news reports indicate that it is unclear how much oil has flowed into the water, but warned that an oil slick covers the river for fifty miles. According to the Dhaka Tribune, "very little" has been done so far in dealing with the environmental disaster which spells a major threat to the wildlife making its home in the Sundarbans. Among the most iconic animals that are threatened include the Bengal tiger, estuarine crocodile, and the Irrawaddy dolphin. To make matters worse, local authorities have not decided on an oil removal plan which includes whether to use dispersants or not. The newspaper further indicated that authorities have requested local people to physically collect furnace oil from the surface of the water as it spreads through an expansive web of rivers and channels in and around the mangrove forests. A spokesperson for Padma Oil Company, which owns the sunken tanker, promised that the company would buy any oil collected by the villagers.
Map of the Sunderbans

It is absolutely devastating to see a major environmental hazard occur in the Sundarbans, which happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only would this recent oil spill affect its status, but it has already and continues to threaten the region's wildlife which include the tiger, Irrawaddy dolphin, etc. However, it is not just wildlife that is at risk from this oil spill. Local villagers living in the vicinity of the Sundarbans are also tremendously affected by the spill. That is, many people rely on the network of waterways as a crucial source of fishing. Because of this sudden oil spill, the fish are under severe threat from suffocation and other health hazards related to oil. This means the oil spill has dramatically affected the livelihood of Sundarbans' villagers. It is absolutely necessary to take drastic steps in cleaning up the oil spill before it spreads further and further in the region and causes more damage to the environment. Furthermore, serious measurements should also be taken in preventing further oil spills in the Sundarbans. This includes changing shipping routes and thoroughly checking the conditions of tankers, boats, and other sailing vessels before letting them off into the waterways.

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