On the 9th of December there was a large oil spill in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh. Most of the 350,000 litres of furnace oil in an oil tanker spilt into the water. Check out these images from the BBC.

The Sundarbans in Bangladesh is the world’s largest contiguous tidal mangrove forest. The mangrove ecosystem is ecologically valuable, filtering contaminants out of the water. Mangroves are already threatened around the world. The Sundarbans is noted for its exceptional biodiversity but the oil spill is threatening many unique species including the Bengal tiger and the Ganges river dolphin. And mangroves are particularly sensitive to oil spills.

 

There’s also a huge human cost. The locals are not in the lucky position of having a government with money and technology to help clean up the mess. They’re scooping the oil out of the water with their bare hands. This oil is toxic and cancerous. Its components cause severe (poor prognosis) leukaemia. Children are exposing themselves. They need our help.

I’ve found a bit of news coverage online, but little from Australia’s government sponsored news broadcasters. There’s nothing from SBS (our overseas-focussed broadcaster), and only the one story from our ABC. This environmental disaster affects us not only because of the damage to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the threat to wildlife, but also because the water in the Sundarbans is everyone’s water – it reaches your country in a manner of days. If the media won’t cover the story you can help play a crucial role. Pester the news media. Spread the story on social media.

Here are some tips on how to do this:

From Water Defense:

“Share information about the oil spill on your social media page to keep it top of mind. For the latest information check on Twitter @Sundarbans_SOS for regular updates and remember to use the hashtag #SundarbansOilSpill.”

From the River Dolphin blog:

“If this post bothers you at all, then I suggest you 1) contact major forms of news media (see post one for how to if you are in the US) and work HARD to get them to cover this story (US still not covering for the most part). 2) Write to the leaders of your country and ask them to pressure the government of Bangladesh to change this clean up solution IMMEDIATELY.  3) SHARE (don’t like… only sharing moves this story along) this post, and help us get the word out.”

An international response team including oil spill experts has now been sent to the Sundarbans in response to a request to the UN from the government of Bangladesh.

There’s an indiegogo campaign to raise money to get extra help to the Sundarbans – the not-for-profit Water Defense organisation wants to send a team to help clean the water. Why donate if there’s a UN team? Besides the obvious statement that a faster cleanup is better, there’s some controversy about using chemical dispersants to clean up oil spills. These dispersants end up in the water. The Water Defense team has a specially developed water cleaning foam that soaks the oil out of the water.

 

Follow Jennifer Lewis’s River Dolphin blog. Jennifer is the Director of the Tropical Dolphin Research Foundation. She reports on the human impact of the oil spill.

http://theriverdolphin.blogspot.com.au/

http://theriverdolphin.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/side-track-off-dolphins-for-one-post.html

http://theriverdolphin.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/ecological-disasterto-say-least.html

http://theriverdolphin.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/assessing-damage.html

 

More information:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/12/141216-sundarbans-oil-spill-bangladesh-tigers-dolphins-conservation/

http://news.sciencemag.org/asiapacific/2014/12/officials-scramble-respond-bangladesh-oil-spill

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/11/bangladesh-oil-spill-threatens-rare-dolphins

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/12/24/3606793/experts-to-help-children-clean-mangrove-oil-spill/

http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1209

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oil_spills

 

 

 

 

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