UN sends team to clean up Sunderbans oil spill

The United Nations has sent a team of international experts to Bangladesh to help clean up the world’s largest mangrove forest on Thursday, more than a week after it was hit by a huge oil spill.

On December 9, a tanker carrying 350,000 litres of furnace oil sank in the Sundarbans Sela river that was salvaged after 55 hours. The oil spread along at least 80km of the river, seriously threatening the delicate ecology of the mangrove forest.

A team from the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) has reached Dhaka to support the “cleanup efforts of the oil spill in the Sundarbans”, a statement from the UN said.

Experts have slammed authorities for failing to organise a proper clean-up effort of the oil spill, which has now spread 350 sq km (135 sq m) inside the delicate mangrove forest area, it added.

While a major government-led clean-up operation is being delayed by indecision, local people in the area are manually sopping up the floating furnace oil with sponges, encouraged by a Padma Oil offer to purchase the furnace oil for Tk30 per litre.

The clean-up so far has covered an insignificant portion of the volume of the oil spill.

Green activists alleged that the government had not taken any scientific steps in managing the oil spread in the Sundarbans and the effects of that would remain on the forest’s biodiversity for more than 50 years.

They also said the Forest Department had used local people to remove the spilled oil without considering their health hazards.

The UN team, sent in response to a request from Bangladesh, will help in the ground work in coordination with the government and will also conduct an assessment and advise on recovery and risk reduction measures.

The European Union and United States, Britain and France are supporting the UN effort.

The UN expressed concern over the disaster, urging Dhaka to impose a “complete ban” on the movement of commercial vessels through the 10,000 sq km (3,850 sq m) forest that straddles the border between Bangladesh and India.

The Sundarbans delta contains the world’s largest unbroken mangrove forest, covering about 10,000sq-km across India and Bangladesh.

The Unesco-listed World Heritage Site is the home to globally endangered species.

The National Geography Traveller, India has listed 10 species at risk from this terrible disaster. They are the rare Irrawady dolphins, the Bengal Tigers, leopard cats, great egrets, rhesus macaques, endemic river terrapin, black-capped kingfishers, chitals, saltwater crocodiles, and the horseshoe crabs – known as a living fossil as it has been dated to 400m years ago.

The massive oil spill in the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, has put many of the region’s fauna at severe risk.

Source : #OnlineKhobor


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