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21 March, 2016 00:00 00 AM
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Panel to probe sinking of coal-laden vessel in Shela

Accident coincides with the arrival of a UNESCO team to assess the situation of the Sundarbans
Shehab Ahmed

The government has formed a four-member probe committee to investigate the sinking of a coal-laden cargo vessel in the Shela river at Tambulbunia of the Sundarbans on Saturday. Fifteen months ago, a furnace oil-carrying tanker had sunk around the same spot. Environmentalists and wildlife-lovers are concerned about this new threat to the wildlife sanctuary—especially to dolphins and other aquatic life. The vessel was carrying 1,250 tonnes of coal and sunk to a depth of 42 feet around 5 pm on Saturday. Its 14-member crew swam ashore, divisional forest officer (DFO) Saidul Islam told The Independent yesterday.The probe committee will submit its report in three days after assessing all aspects of the accident, including the reason behind the sinking of the vessel, the DFO said.
Saidul Islam, however, reported no deaths of dolphins or fish in the vicinity of the latest accident site after his visit yesterday afternoon. The owners of the vessel have been asked to lift the cargo from the river, he said.
The accident has unfortunately coincided with the arrival of a team of scientists from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to conduct a strategic mission to assess the situation of the Sundarbans. The team is scheduled to arrive sometime this week.
In 1999, the UNESCO declared the 4,110-sq km mangrove forest a world heritage site. It is home to 50 species of mammals, 320 species of birds, 50 reptiles, eight amphibians and 400 species of fish. Its inhabitants are protected under the Ramsar Convention and the Wildlife Act. But the latest seepage from the coal vessel, which remained under water till yesterday evening, may add to its old sore from the oil spill of Southern Star, the tanker carrying 55,000 litres of furnace oil, which had sunk on December 10, 2014.
The authorities concerned and local inhabitants had used all their means, including their bare hands, to sponge out water from the river. That accident was followed by the sinking of another cargo vessel carrying fertiliser last year. After the oil tanker capsized, the government had prohibited movement of all ships down the Shela, particularly at night. However, the ban was lifted under pressure from the shipping circle in April, observed Dr Tapan Kumar Dey, a former official of the wildlife circle of the forest department in charge of the Sundarbans.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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