A lighter cargo ship named MV Bishal sank in the inner river of the Sundarbans in the early hours of Sunday with 775 tons of coal.
The accident happened at the Poshur Channel Hathbaria area of Mongla port.
Sundarbans Chadpai station official Kamrul Islam filed a GD in Mongla police sation, mentioning that the ship sank because it was carrying coal beyond its capacity.
The rescue work of MV Bishal has not started yet.
Also read - Vessel carrying coal sinks near Sundarbans
A delegation lead by Divisional Forest official Md Mahmudul Hasan and Md Iqbal Hossain, deputy director of Khulna Department of Environment, visited the scene on Monday.
Mahmudul Hasan said: “The vessel is currently 12 feet under water. Shahin Kabir, official of the Chadpai range, has been instructed to investigate the damage that has been done due to the oil and coal from the ship.”
“Further measures will be taken after the investigation is done,” Mahmudul added.
Mahmudul also said: “The vessel sank near the Eco-Tourism centre and Sundarbans Chadpai range’s patrol outpost.”
“Initially there was no sign of damage found to aquatic life. There is also little chance that dolphins and crocodile might be affected,” Mahmudul further added.
The team from the Environment Department collected water from the scene to examine whether there is any harmful chemical in the water that could harm aquatic animals.
Meanwhile, the lighter cargo owners have started marking the risky zone, so that other vessels do not get affected.
Md Emdad Hossain, assistant director of the Bagerhat Environment Department said, they visited the place and he said the extent of damages cannot be determined right away.
Emdad said: “Why chemicals, oil, and other things from the vessel would not cause harm to the environment and aquatic life, will be verified.”
Harbour Master Commander of the Port authority Oli Ullah said: “The owner has been given 15 days to rescue the vessel. There will be necessary action, if they fail to complete the rescue effort within due time.”
Professor Adbullah Haroon of the Environmental Science Department of Khulna University said: “There is a high chance that some of the surrounding biodiversity is affected.”
Professor Abdullah added: “As coal contains chemical compounds like sulfur, lead, nickel, mercury, and aluminum which can mix with water and make it poisonous, it will have an effect on fish and aquatic animals. It can destroy the overall ecosystem, if such a thing happens.”
Professor Abdullah also mentioned: “Sundarbans’ Hathbaria area is the roaming ground for the Irawaddy Dolphins and if they come across the chemicals, they will be harmed.”
“As this is the breeding season of crocodiles, due to the damage, they might not hatch eggs properly,” Prof Adbullah further said.
Prof Abdullah said: “As there is not proper research surrounding this kind of damages, it is not possible to measure the extent of the damage that has happened.”
Two rescue vessels sent for recovery
Two rescue vessels have been sent to recover the cargo lighter carrying 775 metric tons of coal which sank in the Pasur River in the Sundarbans.
“Within a week the rescue process can be completed once the vessels start working,” said Mongla Port Harbour Master Commander Oli Ullah on Monday.
“The rescue vessels, sent by the cargo lighter’s owners will first lift coal from the sunken ship and then the empty vessel,” Oli Ullah told the Dhaka Tribune.
In Sunday afternoon, Mongla Port authorities engaged divers to set marking buoys which has been helping other ships to mark the place of the sunken ship to avoid further accident. Thus, the operation of other vessels has not been hampered.
Bagerhat's Forest Department Assistant Director Md Emdadul Haque said, “During the low tide water depth at the place of incident was 12 feet. A sample of water has been collected from the spot to examine at Khulna lab.”
He claimed that there is no possibility that the coal will come out from the sunken vessel.
“The rescue team has started with necessary equipment and will start working on Tuesday.”
As per the rules, the owner of the ship will attempt to salvage the vessel first, and then it will come under the port authority’s control.
Bilash was loaded up with coal brought from Indonesia, by the Liberian cargo ship Observator, down the channel. The owner of the coal is Sahara Enterprise in Chittagong.