Wednesday, July 18, 2018 | ePaper

Sundarbans` ecology in danger again

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A VESSEL carrying some 775 tonnes of coal sank in the Sundarbans' Passur River on Saturday night. Though all the seven crew were rescued, the sinking vessel laden with coal has by now inflicted serious damage to the environment of the world's largest coastal mangrove forest. This is the fourth incident of serious pollutant near the forest in the last three years. Coal not only reduces the ph level of water but also increases its acidity.  And the huge load of 775 tonnes is not a small quantity even in the case of a river.
Many have opined that if the coal was well covered in the hull, it would not have spread rapidly. But our point - with or without coverings - why the vessels carrying coal and crude oil are allowed to ply through the waterways near the Sundarbans? Have we forgotten the damage caused by oil-spill in the near past?
Recurrence of such incidents in the Sundarbans should be strictly prevented. The incident of sinking of an oil tanker and subsequent spill of an estimated 300,000 litres of furnace oil into the ecosystem of the forest in 2014 wreaked environmental havoc, and since then the environmentalists took to the streets for prohibiting reckless and rampant movement of cargo vessels closer within the forest's vicinity.
The environmentalists warned that such incidents create massive and prolonged impact on the coastal ecology of the Sundarbans. It has been repeatedly recommended that the authorities concerned should build up a permanent monitoring capacity to oversee the passage of marine vessels - until an alternative marine route can be introduced. Lifting up the ban on marine vessels and lax monitoring of what vessels plying the waterways crisscrossing the Sundarbans mean - another disastrous accident may occur at any given time.
Despite repeated disasters the Department of Environment is failing to draw lesson and take appropriate measures to safeguard the waters surrounding our biggest mangrove forest. The million dollar question - how many disasters will it take before we finally stop commercial vessels to traverse the waterways of the Sundarbans?

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