Published : Wednesday, 28 December, 2022 at 12:00 AM Count : 608
It is disturbing to note that an oil tanker carrying 11 lakh litres of fuel sank in the Meghna River�s Tultuli area early on Monday. The tanker, Nandini-2, was reportedly hit by an unidentified vessel in the wee hours. Though authorities concerned are yet to kick-off a salvage operation - well after 24 hours following the incident � the oil spill cannot sadly be prevented.
Coupled with experts and officials of the Department of Environment and Fisheries, we also fear, spilt oil from the tanker would inflict extensive damage to the bio-diversity and aquatic life of the river. In particular, the Hilsa sanctuary of Meghna River will come under direct threat.
However, this is not the first time that the sinking of an oil tanker has posed threat to ecology and marine life in our country. Reflecting back in the same month of December in 2014 - sinking of another oil tanker carrying over 350,000 litres of furnace oil � wreaked havoc on the aquatic life and the Sundarbans forest. Various media outlets at that time reported one after another shocking tale of bio-diversity destruction. The year alone recorded as many as three oil spill disasters.
Some 375 species of wild and aquatic animals including 32 mammals, 35 reptiles, 300 species of birds and 8 species of amphibians became near victims of extinction due to the oil spill in the river of Sundarbans. Furthermore, barely 5 months later another cargo vessel, this time carrying 300 tonnes of potassium fertiliser, sank in the Bhola River in the Sundarbans while damaging the sprawling mangrove forest that runs through both Bangladesh and India. With the authorities unable to recoup the fertilizer, the chemical had steadily dissolved into the river by turning much of the river water red.
The point, however, back to back disaster in our waters seems to have woken up none. And the lessons drawn against the backdrop of Sundarbans oil spill - prepared by the UN-Bangladesh joint oil spill response team back then � seems to have delivered little.
However, the latest oil spill disaster at Meghna loudly echoes out a serious wake up call.
Shipping of oil through valued and bio-diverse ecosystem presents a serious risk to both environment and communities that depend on it for their livelihoods. Appropriate safeguards and mitigation measures need to be put in place for all significant marine routes with immediate attention - much required to safeguard our environment and marine life.
In conclusion, it has been markedly overdue to strengthen our national oil spill preparedness and response mechanism before another oil spill disaster occurs.