Pollution from Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, puts thousands of marine and terrestrial species at risk, and environmentalists are concerned, who fear for the future of world heritage.
The repeated incidents have already overturned substances such as sulfur, hydrocarbon, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium, radio and many more that kill plankton, a microscopic organism fundamental for the survival of different marine species.
The last disastrous episode occurred on April 14, when a ship with coal sank in the forest, in the area where the famous Bengal tiger lives, an endangered species, which angered the environmentalists.
“It is obvious that the accidents of ships with toxic heavy metals inside Sundarbans will have irreversible consequences in their unique and compact ecosystem”: Sharif Jamil.
The authorities are largely unaware of conservation laws, which seek to protect wildlife in Sundarbans, an area of 10,000 square kilometers off the Bay of Bengal in South Asia.
Entrepreneurs, with the consent of authorities and political leaders, are more concerned about building factories on cheap land around the forest that overlooks the sea to import substances that harm the environment.
Divers from the Bangladesh National River Transport Authority (BIWTA) tracked the sunken ship and found it over 9,000 meters underwater, but they could not rescue it.
This is the third ship that has been shipwrecked in less than two years in a sensitive ecological area with many virgin areas.
The worst fatal accident occurred on December 9, 2014, when low visibility caused a tanker to hit a freighter, dumping 350,000 liters of crude into the Shela River, one of the many tributaries that flow through the forest, where the dolphin also resides. of the Irrawadi River.
Then in May of 2017, a freighter with 500 tons of fertilizer sank in the Bhola River, in Sundarbans. And in October of the same year, a ship with a similar amount of coal sank into the winding, shallow Pashur River.
And every time there is an accident, the authorities try to minimize the damage by saying that the coal contains “safe” levels of sulfur and mercury, substances that are of concern to the environment.
“I am ashamed that a dishonest statement by the owner, without a scientific basis and lacking in truth, has the backing of our government, as it harms their credibility and puts the authorities’ competencies in doubt,” said Sharif Jamil, secretary Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), in dialogue with IPS.
“It is obvious that the accidents of ships with toxic heavy metals inside Sundarbans will have irreversible consequences in their unique and compact ecosystem”, he underlined.
“The Department of the Environment has the responsibility of controlling pollution to punish polluters. We have not seen any action in this particular case, “Jamil questioned.
Coal may not be as destructive as crude, but the commercial route in Sundarbans has a long history of disasters.
For his part, Professor Abdullah Harun, who teaches environmental sciences at the University of Khulna, told IPS: “Freight disaster disasters are catastrophic and destructive to the wildlife of Sundarbans.”
“We have already carried out a series of studies entitled ‘Impact of oil spills in the Sundarbans environment’,” he said.
“Laboratory tests show alarming results with degrees of toxicity in many species and in water samples, which surpass all fiction,” he explained.
“The most alarming are the loss of diversity and populations of phytoplankton and zooplankton, with a vital role in the food chain of the aquatic environment,” he added.
Professor Harun is concerned that the embryos of Sundari seeds, covered in oil, decomposed by the oil spill in 350 square kilometers, do not germinate. The trees of Sundari, which form the mangrove forest, have specialized roots that protrude from the ground and help the gaseous exchanges.
“Our team of scientists analyzed the larvae of fish. Before the 2014 disaster, there were 6,000 larvae in a liter of water, extracted from Sundarbans rivers, “he said.
“After the disaster, we performed the same analysis and found less than half (2,500 larvae) in the same amount of water. And I’m only talking about one species. Is not it alarming? “He asked.
After the incident, the government prohibited the movement of freighters through the narrow canals of the Pashur River, where most of the ships sail. But it is feared that it is only a temporary measure, since after the 2014 spill, it was ended by lifting a similar ban.
The bans that come and go will not solve the underlying problem in Sundarbans.
Hundreds of people demonstrated in the mangrove forest in the town of Bagerhat to protest the construction of a coal-fired power station near Sundarbans in the Rampal area.
The protesters demanded the cessation of the construction of the 1.3-gigawatt plant, located 14 kilometers from the forest upstream.
The rapid industrialization of the area is also a concern for environmentalists.
The Environment Department identified 190 industrial and commercial plants that operate 10 kilometers from the forest, 24 of which identified as “red” because of their dangerous proximity to the heritage site and because they contaminate the soil, water and mangrove air.
Professor Ainun Nishat told IPS: “If we allow the movement of boats through the forest, I would like to ask a few things like, where does coal come from? What do we do with the volatile ashes of cement and other materials? and where do we eliminate the waste? and do we have cooling water for safety? ”
“We need an environmental impact assessment before building an industrial plant, to be sure before repeating the same incidents,” Nishat added.
Data from the Port Authority of Mongla show that navigation in Sundarbans increased 236 percent in the last seven years. That means that the regular contamination that implies will continue to impact the mangrove, even if spills can be prevented.
The increase in navigation reflects greater industrialization in the Sundarbans Impact Zone and in the Ecologically Critical Area of Sundarbans, which in turn will increase the sources of land pollution, if not addressed.
In that World Heritage site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, there are several species of animals such as cat fisher, leopard, macaques, wild boar, foxes, jungle cat, the bat called flying fox, pangolins and chital.
In addition, there are sawfish, pomfret, electric stripe, silver carp, starfish, common carp, crab casserole, shrimp, shrimp, dolphin of the Ganges and several types of frogs and toads.
And to that we must add the 260 species of birds such as storks picotenazas, capirotado ally, ibis cabecinegro, common redfish, gallaretas, jacana colilarga, black kite, brahmini milano, marsh harrier, francolin marsh, gallo bankiva.
Source: IPS Noticias