2014 Sundarbans oil spill

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2014 Sundarbans oil spill
Spilt oil in Sundarban.jpg
Spilled oil on the Shela River
LocationShela River, Sundarbans, Khulna District, Bangladesh[1]
Coordinates22°21′51″N 89°40′1″E / 22.36417°N 89.66694°E / 22.36417; 89.66694Coordinates: 22°21′51″N 89°40′1″E / 22.36417°N 89.66694°E / 22.36417; 89.66694
Date9 December 2014
CauseCollision between oil tanker and cargo vessel
OperatorMS Harun & Co.
Spill characteristics
Volume350,000 litres (77,000 imp gal; 92,000 US gal)
Area350 km2 (140 sq mi)

The 2014 Sundarbans oil spill was an oil spill that occurred on 9 December 2014 at the Shela River in Sundarbans, Bangladesh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[2][3] The spill occurred when an oil-tanker named Southern Star VII,[4] carrying 350,000 litres (77,000 imp gal; 92,000 US gal) of furnace oil, was in collision with a cargo vessel[3] and sank in the river.[5] By 17 December, the oil had spread over a 350 km2 (140 sq mi) area.[6] The oil spread to a second river and a network of canals in Sundarbans, which blackened the shoreline.[7] The spill threatened trees, plankton, and vast populations of small fish and dolphins.[8] The spill occurred at a protected mangrove area, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins.[9] By 12 January 2015, 70,000 litres (15,000 imp gal; 18,000 US gal) of oil had been cleaned up by local residents, the Bangladesh Navy, and the government of Bangladesh.[10]


The collision between the oil tanker and the cargo vessel occurred at the Shela River in Sundarbans, Khulna Division, Bangladesh. The site is near Mongla Port, and is about 100 kilometres (62 mi) from Kolkata Port.[4] The oil tanker was at anchor at the confluence between the Shela River and the Passur River in dense fog when the cargo vessel collided with it at 5am on 9 December 2014.[11] The site is in a protected mangrove area, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins.[9]

Casualties and losses[edit]

Salvaged oil tanker

Seven crew members of the sunken ship managed to swim ashore,[12] but the captain of the ship, Mokhlesur Rahman, died, and his body was recovered a few kilometers away from the spot where the ship sank.[13] Experts estimated that 1,000,000,000 was lost as a result of the sinking of the oil-tanker.[14] The residents of the surrounding area are at a health risk. The government of Bangladesh told the local residents to collect the oil and sell it to the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation. The local oil collectors faced health risks and various skin diseases, including hair fallout if furnace oil mixed with water contacts a person's face or hair.[14]

Environmental issues[edit]

A dead crab and color interference pattern formed in the spilled oil.
Oil covered trees

Environmentalists warned that the event was an ecological "catastrophe",[8] as the spill occurred at a protected area where rare dolphins were present.[9] Experts expressed concerns that the oil spill will hamper the well-being of the aquatic organisms in the area. Wildlife near the river are at a risk of death, because the smell of oil makes breathing difficult.[15] Some images indicate that the disaster killed some animals.[5]

On 13 December 2014, a dead Irrawaddy dolphin was seen floating on the Harintana-Tembulbunia channel of the Shela River.[16] However, it was not confirmed that the dolphin's death was caused by the oil spill. According to the local residents, few dolphins have been seen in the area since the oil spill. Oriental small-clawed otter (Amblonyx cinereus) aquatic carnivore animal lives in the aquatic ecosystem of Sundarbans.[17] On 18 December 2014, two dead otters were recovered from the Shela River by forest department workers. An autopsy of the two otters confirmed that they had died from ingesting oil. The otter is considered to be an endangered species, and has been included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature endangered list.[18]

A team of forest department workers saw crocodiles, monitor lizards and many other animals smeared with oil at the Chandpai range of the Sundarbans.[18]

The oil spill is also posing a major threat to the forest's food cycle. Reports from various sources showed that the microorganisms, the primary level of the food cycle, are dying.[15] The United Nations expressed deep concern over the oil spill, urging the government of Bangladesh to impose a "complete ban" on commercial vessels moving through the forest.[19]

Shajahan Khan, the shipping minister of Bangladesh, told Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha that he has talked with environmental experts, and they said that there will likely be no major damage as a result of the oil spill.[16] Researchers said that Khan's claim was "unscientific and misleading".[15]

Ten species that are at risk as a result of the spill have been listed by The National Geographic Traveler. These species are the Irrawady dolphins, Bengal tigers, leopards, great egrets, rhesus macaques, northern river terrapins, black-capped kingfishers, chitals, saltwater crocodiles, and horseshoe crabs.[20] The presence of white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) over the Sundarbans sky also indicated the large scale death of wild fauna. The secondary effect of oil spill is always much greater than the primary effects.[21]

Oil collection[edit]

Local residents collecting oil

After the spill, primarily Bangladeshi fishermen began to clean up the oil using sponges and sacks.[8] Padma Oil Company, a government-owned corporation, bought the oil at a price of 30 takas per litre.[22] The Bangladeshi navy initially sent four ships to deal with the spill, and planned to use chemicals to disperse the oil,[8] but the plan was canceled, as there were concerns that dispersing the oil would further damage the ecology and biodiversity of the mangrove forest.[23] The government of Bangladesh closed the Shela River to all vessels.[24] The owner of the sunken oil tanker, MS Harun & Co., began salvage efforts, assisted by three private rescue vessels. The Bangladesh Forest Department filed a 1 billion taka lawsuit against the owners of the two cargo ships involved in the collision.[25] By 12 January 2015, the government, with the help of local residents, the Bangladesh Navy, and the owner of the oil tanker, had collected 70,000 litres (15,000 imp gal; 18,000 US gal) of oil.[10] The Bangladesh government said that they do not have the capacity to manage oil spills.[26][27]

The Economic Relations Division of the Bangladesh government sent a letter to the United Nation's Bangladesh office on 15 December 2014, asking for help in the oil collection efforts. The United Nations accepted the request, and a team from the UNEP and OCHA went to the site of the spill.[28] A team from the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination arrived in the Dhaka to support the cleanup efforts.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abu Bakar Siddique. "The Sundarbans in big trouble". Dhaka Tribune.
  2. ^ "India on alert after Sunderbans oil spill in Bangladesh". BBC. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  3. ^ a b Phillips, Tom (13 December 2014). "Fears for rare wildlife as oil 'catastrophe' strikes Bangladesh". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b Krishnendu Mukherjee, Rakhi Chakrabarty. "350-tonne oil spill by Bangladeshi ship threatens Sunderbans". The Times of India. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Massive Oil Spill Threatens Bangladesh's Sundarbans". Global Voices Online. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Assessing the oil spill's impact on Bangladesh's Sundarbans forest". Deutsche Welle. 17 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Bangladesh launches campaign to clean up Sunderbans oil spill". The Hindu. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d "Bangladesh begins oil clean-up after spill". Aljazeera. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  9. ^ a b c "Bangladesh oil spill threatens rare dolphins". Aljazeera. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  10. ^ a b "৩০ টন তেলমাখা সামগ্রী, অপসারিত হয়নি বাকি তেল, দুশ্চিন্তা কাটেনি". Prothom Alo. Archived from the original on 13 January 2015. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  11. ^ Kumar-Rao, Arati (24 December 2014). "Oil spill in the Sundarbans". Maptia. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  12. ^ "India on alert after oil spill in Sundarbans". Reuters. 12 December 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  13. ^ "Callousness cause for Sundarban environmental disaster". observerbd.com. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  14. ^ a b "TK 100 cr. loss feared from Sundarban oil spill". The Daily Ittefaq. Archived from the original on 15 December 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  15. ^ a b c "Oil spill in Sundarbans threatens food cycle". Prothom Alo. Archived from the original on 19 December 2014. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  16. ^ a b Siddique, Abu Bakar. "First dead dolphin spotted". The Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  17. ^ Bautista H. and Rahman K. M. M. (2016). Review On the Sundarbans Delta Oil Spill: Effects On Wildlife and Habitats. International Research Journal, 1(43), Part 2, pp: 93-96. DOI: 10.18454/IRJ.2016.43.143
  18. ^ a b Mahmud, Iftekhar. "Two otters dead in oil spill". Prothom Alo. Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  19. ^ a b "UN sends team to clean up Sunderbans oil spill in Bangladesh". AFP. The Guardian. 18 December 2014. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  20. ^ "BNP to probe Sundarbans oil spill". The Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  21. ^ Rahman K. M. M. & Rakhimov I. I. (2015). Ecological Effects of Oil Spill on Bangladesh Sundarbans Biodiversity. International Scientific and Practical Conference "Complex Problems of Technosphere Safety";Voronezh: Voronezh State Technical University, Russia;Part.VI.258p:Pp:16-21.
  22. ^ "Suranjit peeved over Sundarbans oil spill". Bdnews24.com. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  23. ^ "Dilly dallying delays clean-up of Sundarbans spill". The Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  24. ^ "River route closed after Sundarbans oil spill". The Hindu. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  25. ^ "Govt files Tk 1 billion compensation suit for Sundarbans oil spill".
  26. ^ "No capacity to tackle oil spills". The Daily Star. 16 December 2014. Archived from the original on 26 December 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  27. ^ "India on alert after Sundarbans oil spill". The Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  28. ^ "UN agrees to help govt contain oil spread". Prothom Alo. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014.

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