Biodiversity of our rivers must not be unprotected

28 December 2022

The environmentalists' deep concern over huge ecological damage to the biodiversity and aquatic life of the River Meghna after the sinking of a lighter vessel at its Bhola point with 11 lakh liters of fuel oil has almost appeared true. The authority is yet to rescue the ship though about three days have already gone by. A news report published in an English newspaper on Tuesday said, a huge amount of crude oil has leaked onto the Meghna and is spreading fast into the Bay of Bengal after an unidentified vessel crashed into a tanker in Bhola Sadar's Tultoli area early on Sunday.
The tanker, Sagor Nandini-2, was set out from Chattogram for Chandpur. Another vessel, due to a lack of visibility, bumped into the tanker, creating a crack in the bottom. Sagor Nandini-2 ultimately sank into the river with a possible threat to the environment of that area.  The vessel was carrying 901,000 litres of diesel and 234,000 litres of octane in separately locked containers. As per the official release of the Coast Guard, approximately two lakh tonnes of oil mixed with water could be recovered from the river.
Green activists fear the oil would kill microorganisms in the river destroying river biodiversity and causing massive environmental damage. Marine experts, zoologists, fisheries officials, and environmental activists suspect extensive ecological damage to the surrounding areas and aquatic life of the river including the hilsa sanctuary there. The oil will dissolve into the water, which will undermine the water quality and ultimately harm hilsa production. It will directly harm the growth of plankton, which is usually consumed by hilsa.
In recent years, along with road accidents, accidents in waterways are also on the rise. In December 2014, an oil tanker, 'OT Southern Star 7' carrying 350,000 litres of furnace oil sank in the Shela River in the Sundarban after it was hit by a cargo vessel. The oil from the ship spread 50 kilometres down the Shela and Pashur Rivers. Experts said many unfit vessels continued to operate as the concerned government agencies were indifferent to their fitness, which led to accidents.
Though the High Court on January 30, 2019 declared our rivers as living entities, very sadly, we do not regard our rivers as living systems. We have an irresponsible, myopic development model which usually frustrates our security of life, let alone the rivers. But our rivers must not be uncared for as they are still the lifeline of our economy.

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