Major oil spill in world's largest mangrove forest threatens area's rare wildlife

Local fishermen have taken to the water with sponges and sacks to try and stop the slick from spreading

Authorities in Bangladesh are assessing the level of damage to the world’s largest mangrove forest, following a major oil spill in the Sundarbans conservation area in the south of the country.

There are fears that the area’s wildlife could be under threat after an oil tanker carrying 350,000 litres of oil sunk just outside of the Unesco World Heritage site on Tuesday.

The ship was salvaged by a rescue vessel on Thursday, nearly 30 hours after it first got into trouble.

Within that time, thousands of gallons of oil had escaped two of the damaged containers on the ship, polluting two of the main rivers that run through the Sundarbans, as well as a number of interlinked canals that cover the area.

In total, it is believed that the new slick has already covered 80km and is predicted to spread further.

Environmental agencies in Bangladesh are still in the dark as to the impact this has had on the wildlife in the area and have not yet come up with a plan on how to deal with the spill.

Tapan Kumer Dey, Chief Conservator of Forest Wildlife, said that wildlife agencies had noticed restricted movement throughout the Sundurban’s crocodile population and unusual behaviour had been observed in the extremely rare Irrawaddy dolphins that live in the mangroves.


Amir Hosain, chief forest official of the Sundarbans, claimed that unprecedented nature of the accident that they were unsure how exactly they would go about tackling it.

He said: “We're worried about its long-term impact because it happened in a fragile and sensitive mangrove ecosystem.“

So desperate has the situation become for the local fishermen that many have taken to the water with sponges and sacks in a desperate attempt to clear the water of the oil.

AN58772366epa04525942-A-pho.jpgSpread over 10,000 square kilometres, the Sundarbans is a sanctuary for a number of rare animals including fish and bird species, as well as being the home to hundreds of Bengal tigers.

Many fear the oil spill could have an irreversible impact on the area’s fragile ecosystem.

Additional Reporting AP