Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: The natural Sunderbans region of West Bengal is about to face an ecological nightmare after a 350-tonne oil spilled over an 80-sq-km area along the Sela river in Bangladesh.
The accident took place early Tuesday when a tanker carrying the toxic liquid crashed after it was hit from behind by an empty cargo ship. The oil spill threatens the oceanic and river wildlife especially the rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins.
The thick layer of oil on the surface of the river will cut down the dissolved oxygen and the environmentalists have said that dolphins would be first to be affected from the lack of oxygen as they will soon start suffocating.
Even land animals like deer and other herbivores could suffer as the vegetation they feed on will be covered by a thick layer of oil and rinse into the soil once the water recedes. This in turn will affect the already threatened Sunderban tigers, who feed on the herbivores. The ecosystem in the area is under high danger as the spill is spreading 20 kms per day.
The coastal mangrove goes under water twice a day during high tide. According to experts, there is a high chance of a massive ecological disaster in the biggest mangrove forest in the world due to the oil spill. Bangladesh forest officials have even called the accident “an ecological catastrophe”
Activists and environmentalists have long been saying that the brackish water shipping route through the Sunderbans violates ecological norms. In fact, this incident marks a third such catastrophe in the last three years.
The Sunderbans forest is a UNESCO Heritage site and the habitat of the famous Royal Bengal Tigers. The covers and area of over 26,000 square kilometres across India and Bangladesh.