The Daily Star – Oil spill seen in the Bay

(Written by Dwaipayan Barua)

14 December 2011 – A 10-kilometre oil slick was reported in the Bay off the district’s Sitakunda upazila yesterday.

Boatmen and passengers crossing the area in the morning said they had noticed the strip which was around 50 feet wide and spreading to Kadam Rasul from Kumira coast.

Both the reason and the severity of the spillage so far remained unconfirmed.

Mohammad Ilias, supervisor of Banglar Alo, an engine-run ferryboat that operates on the sea route, told The Daily Star over mobile phone that he had noticed black burnt oil floating around 11:00am.

“The tide has just begun. With water rushing towards the beach, the floating oil would spread to Kadam Rasul through Baro Aulia coast,” he said, adding the slick could be around 10km long.

Mannan Cherag, a Banglar Alo boatman who also saw the slick, said he often notices oil spills there but yesterday’s was the longest.

Visiting the spot by engine boats, The Daily Star correspondents found the strip.

Boatmen, fishermen and people travelling between Sandwip and Chittagong said they often see oil spills, for what they blame the ship-breaking industry.

There are over 50 ship-breaking yards next to the coast and more than 100 vessels are beached there for dismantling.

Nurul Absar Chowdhury, former chairman of Amanullah Union Parishad in Sandwip and now a Chittagong resident, regularly travels to his village home in the island through the route.

“I usually get on engine boat at Kumira ghat and there is a ship-breaking yard nearby,” he said.

He often notices black oil-like substance floating in the sea and suspects the ship-breaking yards to be its source.

Hefazatur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Ship Breakers’ Association, brushed aside the suggestion that scrap ships caused oil spill in the sea.

Oil might have leaked from tankers that travel to different parts of the country from the Chittagong port, he said.

“A spill of such magnitude could originate only from oil tankers. But we haven’t brought any oil tanker recently. The last time we brought ships was one and a half months ago. Those were scrap vessels, not oil tankers.”

He said they had heard about the slick and sent a team to the area. “But our team hasn’t spotted anything yet.”

Contacted, Zafar Alam, an Environment department director based in the port city, said they had inspected the area in the afternoon and noticed no major spill.

They saw a 100-metre layer of oil floating between Kadam Rasul and Kumira, but could not identify its source, he said.