Fertilizer-filled vessel sinks in Sundarbans

Five days after it sank in the river Bhola of Sundarbans, the fertilizer-filled vessel is yet to be recovered. The owners of the vessel, the forest department, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) or any other quarter is not bothered about salvaging the ship. The authorities are  displaying the same neglect and incompetence which they showed in December last year when a vessel capsized with 350 thousand tonnes of furnace oil. The 500 tonnes of toxic fertiliser is not only harming the aquatic life, but is also spreading inside the forest and harming the environment and the ecology.

There has been a long standing demand to stop the passage of vessels through the Sundarbans, but the government remains impervious. The dangers involved in this were glaringly apparent when the vessels with the furnace oil capsized. The forest is still reeling under the effect of that spill and now tis vessel with the fertiliser has sunk.

The passage of vessels should have been stopped in order to protect the Sundarbans. Even the prime minister issued orders to that effect. Similar recommendations came from government and non-government investigative reports as well as from the UN inspection team. But some invisible force has prevented the ban on vessels. In fact, the number of vessels have increased. It seems as if the government offices are not there for protection, but for destruction.

It is BIWTA's responsibility to recover the sunken vessel. However, they are least bothered. No mechanism, fund, technology or trained manpower has been created to tackle any disaster in the Sundarbans. This rare mangrove forest not only is a haven for wild life, but is also a natural buffer to climate change.

The plying of vessel through Sundarbans must stop without further delay. The onus is on the government. The shrimp farms must be evicted from the rivers normally used used for travel. Sundarbans must be tortured no more.