Another coal-laden vessel sank near the Sundarbans Friday morning. MV Aichgati, a lighterage ship carrying over 1,000 tonnes of coal to Noapara in Jessore, sank in the estuary of the Pasur river and the Bay of Bengal, to the west of Zulfikar channel near Hiron Point in the Chandpai range in Bangladesh. All the crew were rescued by another lighterage vessel passing by at the time of the incident.
Expressing concern, environmentalists said such incidents could be disastrous for the Sundarbans, world’s largest mangrove forest, especially for the aquatic life.
The vessel was carrying low-quality pit coal brought for brick kilns. Such low-graded coal contains several types of heavy metals, including sulphur, lead, cadmium, mercury and barium, and many others toxic materials. One microgram of mercury can poison 100-litre water.
It is the fourth vessel to sink in or around the Sundarbans since December 9, 2014 when an oil tanker carrying 3.57 lakh litres of furnace oil sank in the Shela river.
“If the authorities want to transport coal for the operation of Rampal power plant, the way it is being done now, it would be disastrous for the Sundarbans,” said Zahir Uddin, conservator of the forest, Khulna division.
Such accidents are happening one after another as the ministry of shipping has been allowing faulty vessels to operate here, he said. If the government does not take necessary measures, the Sundarbans will be always under threat.
As per the environment impact assessment of the Rampal project, mother vessels will bring 80,000 tonnes of coal and offload it at Akram Point off the Sundarbans and later lighterage vessels would bring the coal through the Pasur river to Rampal â€œcontrollingâ€ dust. Every day, the plant will require 10,000 tonnes of coal, which means several vessels will operate along the Pasur through the forest.