The management of water traffic through the Sundarbans and measures taken to prevent pollution are currently weak, says the final report of Government-UN Joint Sundarbans Oil Spill Response Mission released on Sunday, putting forward a 10-point recommendation to avert further environment disaster in the mangrove forest.
Suggesting a strengthened inland water vessel management regime, the report says in the Shela River there is an immediate need to stagger the large number of vessels waiting to pass, ban vessel passage during nighttime and foggy weather and prohibit all anchoring in the channel if it is not emergency.
The report, tilted 'Sundarbans Oil Spill Assessment', was launched at Cirdap auditorium in the capital. Environment and Forests Minister Anwar Hossain Manju and UN resident coordinator Robert Watkins, among others, spoke at the function. According to the report, the short-term impacts of the oil spill seem to be limited, but further monitoring has to be strengthened for analysing likely long-term impacts.
The report also highlighted a number of factors like timely tidal variations and decision to ban tanker traffic in the river that minimised the penetration of the oil into the Sundarban ecosystem. It, however, observed that the oil spill accident must be considered seriously as it occurred in a wildlife sanctuary and world heritage site - treasured for its unique biodiversity.
The report found that an estimated 3-50 metric tonnes of oiled vegetation and other debris remain in the temporary storage structures to the communities. This will begin to decompose, pose a health hazard to local communities and remain a source of potential re-oiling of the area if the storage fails. It stressed the need for accelerating efforts to quickly and safely dispose of all solid oiled waste, and develop and implement a comprehensive management plan to make sure the waste does not re-contaminate the environment.
The Government-UN Joint Sundarban Oil Spill Response Mission put forward 10 recommendations to address the impacts of oil spill on the environment and affected communities of the Sundarbans and asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests to develop an action plan to implement the recommendations.
On December 31, 2014, the preliminary findings of the joint team of Government-UN Mission were revealed at a function in the capital recommending halting the plying of water vessels through the Sundarban to avert further environmental disasters. ?UNB