Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Kallol Mustafa
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Kallol Mustafa

Oiled sanctuary

Why the Sundarban oil spill was a disaster waiting to happen.

The Southern Star VII left port early in the morning, riding the low tide towards the sea. It was still dark when the tanker, laden with 357,000 litres of furnace oil, turned off onto the Shela River, which winds into the depths of the Sundarban, the world's largest mangrove forest. The tanker was leaving from Mongla, Bangladesh's second-most important port, whose only connection to the rest of the country, then, was through the vulnerable ecosystem of the forest.

As they pushed on into the forest, the fog thickened. The Southern Star VII had barely been on the move for two hours when the captain ordered the anchor to be lowered: it was impossible to navigate the milky brew among the mangroves.

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Himal Southasian