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Thursday, December 18, 2014, Poush 4, 1421, Safar 24, 1436 Hijr

Oil spill starts taking human toll
Banani Mallick back from Joymoni in Bagerhat
Published : Thursday, 18 December, 2014,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 252
The locals including the fishing community have fallen sick after collecting spilled furnace oil from the oil-tanker, Southern Seven Star, which sank in River Shela last Tuesday off Joymoni in Bagerhat district.
Many of the locals have started complaining of health problems trying to save their only source of livelihood, the Sundarbans, without knowing the impact of the salvage operation on their health.
Now after eight days of the sinking of the oil tanker people are facing the great impact of the oil.
The accident is threatening trees in the forest and planktons, vast populations of small fish, crabs, dolphins and crocodiles in the river. The oil-spill occurred at a protected site in the Sundarbans mangrove area, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins.
When this correspondent visited the area, she found that a large number of locals were engaged in collecting oil despite their illness. Meanwhile, government-owned oil company Padma Oil enhanced the rate of per litre oil from Tk 30 to Tk 40.
The local people mostly fishermen were seen collecting oil from the water without even wearing protective gloves although it is mandatory for the scavengers to wear masks and gloves while collecting oil which is highly toxic.  
Moshiur Sena, 40, son of Ali Baksi Sena, of Jaymoni area under Mongla Thana in Bagerhat district said that he was unable to collect oil on that particular day as he had been feeling sick for the last four days.
 "Sister, I do not feel well, my whole body is burning. And neither a mud bath nor a shower is helping me. I do not know what to do," Moshiur told this while sitting at Joymoni Launch Ghat on the bank River Shela.
Moshiur's illness could not stop his son Roni, a 14 years old boy, from colleting the toxic oil for money.
When asked if he was feeling any unusual symptoms, Rony replied that he was feeling some etching in his body, but not diarrhoea or unusual abdominal pain which his father, Moshiur, and scores of other fishermen are experiencing.
Like Roni, a significant number of boys aged between 10 to 15 years were also collecting oil without knowing the bad impact of the spilled oil.
 "We tried to catch fish in the river, but did not get any. It seems the fish has been hiding on the riverbed just after the oil spill," said Delowar Sheikh another fisherman who has been engaged in fishing since long.  
Md Sohel Sheikh, 26, and his friend Niaz, 25, also engaged in collecting oil on a hired trawler, have been admitted to hospital in Mongla, as both of them were suffering from diarrhoea.
Referring to his sickness he said that after collecting oil he had taken food without properly washing his hands which must have caused his illness.
Beside a large number of people said that they cannot eat food due to bad odour in their food.
Fatima Khatun, 38, who along with her twelve-year son Sourav, collected oil from the Joymoni Launch Ghat area, told this correspondent that her son was feeling unwell.
"Sourav's asthma has aggravated due to the impact of the spilled oil," she added.
Prof Dr Masuda Khatun, a Skin Specialist at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital, said the effect of the spilled oil on human body is toxic. If anyone consumes the oil it will cause diarrhoea and abdominal pain and may also cause body sore.
When asked about the long-term impact, she noted that in the long-term it will cause indigestion, insomnia, liver disorder and other complications.
Abu Naser Khan, Chairman of Paribesh Bachao Anadalan, who had visited the spot after the accident, said it was a painful experience to see small children collecting oil.
"They do not know the bad impact of it. They are poor children wanting to help their families without knowing the bad impact of it," he said.
 "I do not understand how the government could inspire the local people to undertake such harmful job knowing it is harmful," he questioned.
Meanwhile, medical teams as promised by the Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan are yet to arrive in the affected areas to treat the sick people.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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