Although international donor agencies are concerned about the Sunderbans, the government is still reluctant about protecting the mangrove forest and it is indeed taking steps to destroy it, said a BNP probe body in Bagerhat on Monday.
“Even though the donor agencies are deeply worried about the Sunderbans and showed their interest to protect it, our government is indifferent in this regard. Instead, it’s taking steps one after another to destroy the forest,” said BNP probe body chief Major (retd) Hafizuddin Ahmed.He was talking to reporters after the probe panel formed by BNP visited the Sunderbans, including the spot where an oil tanker crashed in the Shela River in Mongla, spilling out oil over vast areas of the Sundarbans.
Mentioning that ‘OT Southern Star-7’ was actually a sand-carrying vessel, Hafizuddin, also BNP vice-chairman, said, “It’s surprising that dangerous fuel was being carried by such a vessel.”
He also said had the government any interest about the Sundarbans, such incident would not have occurred. The BNP leader said the government has manifested its irresponsibility by taking the decision to set up a coal-fired power plant at Rampal near the Sundarbans only to ‘appease’ India.
Six members of the seven-strong probe panel visited different areas of the Sundarbans, including the accident spot, along the Shela River by a launch. They also entered deep into the forest to see for themselves the impacts of the oil spill.
The committee chief talked to the journalists in Kheyaghat area after the visit. Hafizuddin said they went through some 30-kilometre area and talked to local people when they informed the BNP team that the oil spill had badly affected the biodiversity and aquatic life of the Sundarbans.
Many wild animals have also died, he quoted the locals as saying, adding that fishermen were passing their days half-fed as fishes vanished from the river. Many locals have developed skin diseases while removing spilled oil from the river, the BNP leader said.
He said that they would share their findings with BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on Thursday. An oil-tanker carrying more than 350,000 litres of furnace oil sank in Shela River on Dec 9. The government temporarily shut the riverine route and started mopping up oil with locals’ help.
The BNP alleged the accident was planned to harm the Sundarbans. On Saturday, Khaleda Zia formed a committee to investigate the oil spill in the world’s largest mangrove forest. – UNB