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Tuesday, February 17, 2015, Falgun 5, 1421 BS, Robi-Us-Sani 27, 1436 Hijr

Sundarban Oil Spill
Experts find info in UN report inadequate
Published : Tuesday, 17 February, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 40
Banani Mallick
The assessment report of the United Nations titled "Sundarbans oil spill assessment joint United Nations/ Government of Bangladesh Mission, 2014," lacks credible information, claimed experts and environmentalists.
Referring to the page number 37 of the report, experts pointed out that the fifth recommendation had touched upon safe removal of moderately to heavily affected Nipa leaves.
About removal of disposed nipa leaves (locally known as golpata) they noted that the government had already banned the harvest of Nipa leaves from the Sundarban.
Pavel Partho, a noted Ethno-Botanist and Environment Scientist said,"The government has banned  extraction of golpata. How they recommend its removal without following any legal framework." 
He expressed the view that the information provided by the UN experts are not correct. "The exiting harvest programme of the government cannot accept this recommendation. The government has to adopt new legal framework for following this recommendation, the experts must know it," he said.
He also noted that the report (Page no 14) has suggested three stages of the situation such as low level of oil pollution; from sporadic traces on the shore to a continuous thin layer of oil on the vegetation (< 30 cm), medium level of contamination and no visible oil on the shoreline sediments but a visible line (< 30 cm) on the vegetation or/and on human construction and high level of contamination; oil on the shoreline and on the vegetation (> 30 cm coverage).
Reviewing this he said that the assessment report suggests the oil spillage incident's impact varied in different places in Sundarban.
"We have to understand that if one part of Sundarban is affected then other part will also be affected. It is a segmental assessment report, rather it should be holistic" he said.
 The assessment report of about 103 pages, especially the reference page (41) shows that although they have mentioned two projects financed by  Asian Development Bank-2004  " Institutional strengthening of Chittagong port authority in environment management (ADB.177 pp.) and another is  Asian Development Bank. 1998.
"Summery initial environment examination for Sundarban biodiversity conservation project in Bangladesh (ADB.29 pp) but did not use the research report titled "Oil spill impact and response management programme, 2001 report," conducted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) financed by ADB and jointly carried by Japan Oil Engineering Co Ltd, Fuyo Ocean Development and Engineering Co Ltd and Consolidated Service Ltd (from Bangladesh) under the supervision of the MoEF.
The research work on the impact of oil pollution in the Sundarban in 2001 recommended necessary steps to tackle the situation. The project area was selected from Dhammari to Hiron point due to proximity of Mongla seaport and after testing water from this particular area, it was found that the water of the whole stretch had the presence of oil.
As a component of the research the MoEF tested the water of the rivers of Sundarban for the first time and came to the conclusion that the ecology and bio diversity of the mangrove forest were more or less vulnerable.
But the UN recent assessment report suggests the Sundarban oil spill did not have any visible impact on the forest floor and long-term monitoring is needed to know the actual extent of damage.
The environmentalists and experts termed this very fishy and said the present report is very confusing and unclear.
The report said oil contamination in the aquatic ecosystem may hamper physiological activities including breeding of aquatic organism and disrupt food chain or the food web.
A 25- member joint team comprising experts from various offices of the UN and the government of Bangladesh conducted the study over a six-day period in the last week of December
They used site observations, interviews, aerial photography, sampling and other assessment techniques to evaluate the situation and develop recommendations.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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