UN sends team to help clean up Sunderbans oil slick in Bangladesh

UN sends team to help clean up Sunderbans oil slick in Bangladesh

Thu Dec 18, 2014 8:49PM GMT

The United Nations (UN) has dispatched a team of international experts to Bangladesh to help clean up thousands of liters of fuel oil that spilled into a natural reserve following a tanker accident in the Sundarbans region of Bangladesh.

The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team arrived in the capital, Dhaka, on Thursday to assist Bangladesh’s “cleanup efforts of the oil spill in the Sundarbans,” a statement from the UN read.

The UN team was sent in response to a request from Bangladesh and is scheduled to help in the groundwork in coordination with the government, and will also conduct a survey and suggest recovery and risk reduction measures.

On December 9, an oil tanker carrying more than 350,000 liters (92,500 gallons) of bunker oil sank in Sundarbans after being hit by a cargo vessel.

M. Giasuddin, an official of the company that owns the vessel, said the sunken oil tanker was salvaged on December 11, but two of its six containers had been badly damaged.

The slick has reportedly spread over 70 kilometers (45 miles) of Shela River, where there are endangered Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins and other rare aquatic animals.

At least 20 canals connected with Shela as well as another major river, Pashur, have been also affected.

The Sundarbans, with an expanse of over 10,000 square kilometers (3,800 square miles), is the world’s largest mangrove forest, and home to hundreds of Bengal tigers.

Bangladesh’s Forest Department has started spraying chemicals in an attempt to disperse the oil in the polluted region.

Environmentalists have expressed concerns over the environmental damage that the oil and the chemicals could do to the delicate ecology of the area.

“We’re worried about its long-term impact because it happened in a fragile and sensitive mangrove ecosystem,” said Amir Hosain, the chief forest official of the Sundarbans region.

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