The scar of the last year's oil spill in River Shela in the Sundarban has hardly erased when another cargo ship sinking incident occurred in the Pashur River close to the Sundarban on Tuesday night raising huge outcry from environmentalists and experts.
Pointing finger at the government officials, the environmentalists said that the repeat incidents of sinking is happening due to government's negligence.
"Sundarban is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Despite knowing it, the government has not yet prohibited movement of vessels carrying poisonous chemicals, fertilisers, oil and other stuffs," said Dr. Mohd Abdul Matin, General Secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA), while talking to the Daily Observer.
Stopping vessel movement is a long time demand, but every time the government ignores it even knowing full well the harm it causes to the biodiversity and eco- systems of the Sundarban, he also added.
A cargo ship MV Zia Raj, which sank in the Pashur River Channel near Jaymoni Ghol Sailo at Mongla seaport was carrying 600 tonnes of coal.
Abu Naser Khan, Chairman of Bangladesh Paribesh Bachoy Andalan, said that transporting oil through this route should be avoided as it is a sensitive place.
"We have been demanding that the government ban the vessels which carry harmful items for long, but government has not yet taken any effective measures. I do not understand what more incidents will make government careful," he said.
He said the eco-systems of the river and sea are sensitive, because of natural high tide and low tide systems, because of that government should be more conscious.
When asked what steps government will take to clear the waterway of the sunken ship, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan said that the cargo ship was very heavy and they do not have equipment fit to pull it up.
"We do not have equipment to pull up such a cargo ship, so we have decided to collect the coals from inside the ship," he said.
Already we have marked the spot and employed the Coast Guard, and expecting that, after low tide, people will collect the coals from inside the ship, he added.
Gazi Motitur Rahman, Forest Ranger of Chadpai Range under Sundarban Division, filed a case with Mongla police station.
He also said that primarily they filed case against Dil Khan, the owner of the MV Zia Raj cargo ship and Md Bhulu Gazi, master of the cargo.
The 2014 Sundarban oil spill in the Shela River occurred when an oil-tanker named Southern Star VII carrying 350,000 litres of furnace oil collided with a cargo vessel and sank in the river.
By December 17, the oil had spread to over a 350 km area and also to a second river and a network of canals in Sundarban.
The spill threatened trees, planktons, and vast populations of small fish and dolphins.
The spill occurred at a protected mangrove area, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins.
Referring to the coal of the sunken vessel, Pavel Partho, a botanist and environment activist, said that they still we do not know the category of the coal.
"The presence of sulphur in coal will decrease the oxygen level in the water. And when the oxygen level will decrease the aquatic life will suffer," he said.