Dhaka, Dec 12: The Sunderbans on the Bangladesh side is in jeopardy after a major oil spill at the Shela river on Tuesday. Bangladesh retrieved a sunken oil tanker, 2 days after it capsized and spilled 3.5 lakh litre oil over a spread of 34,000 hectares at the world's largest mangrove forest. A forest official said that the tanker was pulled out and stationed at a nearby shoal.
It is also said that two out of six tankers were intact as the rest of them spilt after colliding with a cargo vessel. According to the Mongla Port Commodore Habibur Rahman, the tanker was carrying 350,000 liters of furnace oil. The two vessels had 100,000 litres left in them.
Ecologists fear that the spillage would have covered 50 kilometers as it may have permeated through a wide network of rivers and channels in and around the forest.
To avoid any further damage, shipping minister Shajahan Khan has suggested that a ship sprayed powedered material to subside the oil so that the risk of oxygen reduction in water is minimised.
Rahman further said that the rescue vessel if equipped with oil dispersants that can handle up to 10,000 litres of oil.
"We have planned measures to remove the oil by the next three days also engaging local fishermen to use their traditional methods of neutralising oil," he added. Fishermen have been asked to sweep the oil layer with the help of fishing nets and sell it to state-owned Padma Oil Company to get back incentives.
According to the locals, several forest animals like lizards and otters were found floating dead. In fact, the cite of collision is said to be a sanctuary for dolphins and rare acquatic animals and fishes.
Meanwhile, environmental activists have demanded a ban on the passage of commercial vessels in the routes in and around the Sunderbans.