Deep concern at the news of the oil spill disaster in the Sundarbans

Deep concern at the news of the oil spill disaster in the Sundarbans

18 December 2014

The Ramsar Secretariat is deeply concerned at the news of the oil spill disaster that took place in the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, Bangladesh on Tuesday, 9 December 2014. The Ramsar Secretariat has been in contact with the Ramsar Administrative Authorities in the country to enquire about the situation on the ground. 

The Chair of Ramsar’s Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), Prof. Roy Gardner, offered the advisory assistance of three experts who have worked extensively on oil spills in wetlands, including during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. 

The Secretariat is also in contact with its partner UN-OCHA, which is putting together a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team. The main tasks of the team will be to provide support to the Government of Bangladesh in undertaking technical assessments, and to provide expert advice on clean-up operations. 

The Sundarbans Reserve Forest, a Ramsar and World Heritage Site, is the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the world. The oil tanker was wrecked in a site that is home to a number of unique and threatened species of plants and animals, such as the endangered royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), the vulnerable Pallas’s fishing eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus) and Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), as well as the masked finfoot (Heliopais personata), and the critically endangered river terrapin (Batagur baska), all listed in the IUCN Red List.

It is still difficult to evaluate the extent of the damage, and the degree to which the oil has entered the mangroves swamps – is it just the shoreline that has been exposed or has oil actually entered the interior of the mangroves? The Ramsar Secretariat will follow the short and longer term impacts of this massive oil spill and provide what assistance we can to the Government of Bangladesh to help in the recovery of the site from the spill.

Photo credit: AP