MV Bilash, the cargo carrying coal, sunk three days ago in Pasur river in the Sundarbans, rendering sufficient time for the chemicals from the coal to be infused with the soil and cause widespread environmental damage.
Professor of Environmental Science of Khulna University, Dr Abdullah Harun said: “Coal contains lead, chromium, cadmium, mercury and arsenic in large quantities which can cause severe damage to marine life.
“As a result, human beings are also being harmed by consuming these poisoned fish. The chemicals from the coal will easily mix with the soil and cause far-reaching damages, such as impeding growth of aquatic life, harming embryo, ruining the soil’s pH, etc.,” he added.
He also added: “Hathbaria area is the roaming ground for the Irawaddy Dolphins and they will be harmed by the chemicals emitted from the coal. Moreover, as this is the breeding season of crocodiles, their eggs may not hatch properly due to this damage that is becoming increasingly difficult to contain, thus putting both dolphins and crocodiles at risk.”
Regarding the ingredients of coal, Prof Abdullah said: “The sunken ship had low-grade coal used in brick kilns of Jashore and various steel manufacturing factories, which contain harmful substances, including lead, beryllium, radium, arsenic, etc. The sulfur in the coal leads to the production of sulfuric acid, which endangers the marine life and biodiversity. Another prime ingredient of coal is nickel which acts as a carcinogen.”
He also stressed the importance of channeling cargos carrying such harmful substances through alternate routes to protect the environment of the Sundarbans.
The cargo carrying 775 metric ton coal sank on April 15 in the Hathbaria 5 and 6 route.