Published:  01:12 AM, 18 July 2017

Oil spills and the environment

Since the December 17, 2014 oil spill in Shela River inside the Sundarbans there have been at least four more spills in Bagerhat, Satkhira, Heronpoint and Barisal. The latest accident on the Kitonkhola River involved a big oil tanker which was carrying 1.2 million liters of diesel and petrol. Diesel started spilling into the Kirtonkhola River in Barisal when an oil-carrying vessel MV Ma Babar Doa-2 collided with the cargo ship MV Fazar, which was transporting fuel oil to Jamuna Oil Depot on Friday. The tanker vessel from Chittagong was carrying 950,000 liters of diesel and 300,000 liters of petrol before the crash. Diesel has spilled into the river but the authorities have failed to specify the quantity. The accident happened because the cargo ship failed to respond to the signal of the oil tanker.

Oil spills in the coastal area of Bangladesh have become frequent in recent times. Accidents are in most cases blamed for this, but experts say there has been a regular spill of oil from filling trawlers, passengers and cargo vessels from coastal maintenance of their engines which use oil as fuel. Besides water vessels, flying boats on inland river routes and sailing out to sea are often found cleaving in and around the Sundarbans and coastal waters. Due to lack of monitoring vessels through bilge and ballast polluting the water of the river.

At least 50,000 liters of diesel and petrol were spilled in the Kirtankhola River this time. Many people were seen busy collecting the spilled oil in buckets. It is not a proper way to tackle oil spill. According to government data published in 2015, approximately 7,000 water vessels run on the sea, rivers and canals. Bangladesh has witnessed some major oil spills in previous years. The most damaging oil spill took place in December 2014 when an oil tanker with 357,000 liters of furnace oil capsized in the Sundarbans' Shela River.

Only the coast guard has the capability and access to work in coastal areas. It is urgent to determine the quantity of oil that was spilt and the extent of damage caused to aquatic animals and birds in the area. The frequency of oil spills is really dreadful. It is a threat for our aquatic and wild life and environment. To save the nature of the country, prevention of oil spill is indispensable.

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