United Nations analyzes oil spill in Sundarbans, Bangladesh

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A United Nations (UN) team assessed the damage from an early December oil spill in Sundarbans, Bangladesh, to the world's largest mangrove forest. Team leader Emilia Wahlstrom yesterday presented preliminary assessment results at a press conference in the capital, Dhaka.

Mangrove forests in Sundarbans, Bangladesh in 2008.
Image: Sayamindu Dasgupta.

The 25-member UN team arrived in Bangladesh on December 18 and visited the Sundarbans from December 22 to December 27.

At the press conference, Wahlstrom said the pollution was spread 40 kilometers up and downstream, but no impact on the mangrove forest floor was observed. She said the Pashur and Shela rivers contributed by washing some of the oil. She also suggested a ban on water traffic in the area, saying "regular monitoring and stopping traffic through the Sundarbans are needed to tackle the long-term impact."

Anwar Hossain Manju, Minister for Forest and Environmental Affairs of Bangladesh, acknowledged that vessel traffic in Sundarbans was suspended. He also said "alternative options" were "being explored".

Wahlstrom also commented cleanup by local villagers removed about a fifth of the oil spill.

On December 9, the OT Southern Star 7 tanker sank in an accident with another vessel. Reportedly visibility was poor due to thick fog. OT Southern Star 7 was carrying about 350,000 L of fuel oil.

Sundarbans is a World Heritage Site. The UN plans to release a final report in two weeks.

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