The largest tidal mangrove forest in the world, the Sunderbans, encountered an ecological catastrophe when it got tarnished by 350 tonnes of oil spill. Stretching approximately 10,000 square kilometres across India(40%) and Bangladesh (60%) , the incident took place in the Sundarbans region of Bangladesh.
The oil spill in Sunderbans occurred due to the collision of Southern Star VII, cargo carrying oil with another ship at Sela river in Khulna Division, Bangladesh on 9th December 2014. The site is near Mongla port and is about 100 kilometres from Kolkata port. The spill has spread over a 40-mile-long (64 kilometers) area along the Sela and Pusur rivers.
So far the clean up have been done by local people. A team from the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) has been sent to help the Bangladeshi officials with the clean up process.
It is horrifying to note that this was the third vessel to sink in the area in last three years. The other two carried fly ash and fertilizer. Imagine the extent of damage these highly sensitive forests have to go through.
Named for the native sundari tree, the Sundarbans is a vast delta of which is densely covered by mangrove forests. The delta is a UNESCO World Heritage site which also boasts of being one of the largest Bengal tiger reserve.
Mangrove trees help to stabilize the river deltas and provide habitat for an array of animals like Bengal tigers, rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins. They also provide wood and tannin, which is used in medicine.
These oils are absorbed by the tree roots and can cause mortality in a day or so. Oil also reduces the ability of the tree to exchange gases which is very fatal for the life form.Mangroves are one of the most sensitive habitat to oil spill effects. They are slow
growing, sensitive to oil, and difficult to clean.
These areas should receive the highest protection priority during a spill. Every effort should be made to minimize the amount of oil that is allowed to enter a mangrove area.