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Open Mic: Help Needed for Sundarbans Oil Spill Response

At the Mic: Mya-Rose Craig

I am a 12 year old British Bangladeshi birder, conservationist, writer and speaker. The oil spill in the Sundarbans, Bangladesh is a huge ecological disaster being ignored at home and abroad. This ruined landscape is close to my heart. If you have a heart, please help in any way you can.

You can act NOW to limit this disaster:

  • Donate money to Mark Ruffalo Water Defense Appeal to clean up the oil
  • Share my blog posts Sundarbans Oil Spill Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 on social media to put pressure on international media to report on this catastrophe and wildlife groups to help
  • Attend my fundraising talk in Dhaka at 7.00 pm Friday 20th February 2015 (Gulshan venue to be fixed)
  • Donate to Porshee Appeal who is clearing up debris.

What happened?

On 9th December an oil tanker, Southern Star VII, carrying over 92,000 gallons of furnace oil was hit by a cargo boat, causing a massive oil spill inside a nature sanctuary. This shocking news came from the Sundarbans in Bangladesh, a 4000 square mile UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the world’s largest mangrove forest with rare wildlife including the iconic Royal Bengal Tiger, Irrawaddy and Ganges Dolphins and Masked Finfoot plus 270 bird species. It felt close to me as we had cancelled a February trip there only a couple of weeks before, to concentrate on survey work for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper near Cox’s Bazar.

As the story has unfolded, Bangladeshi’s like me have been watching in disbelief as the biggest environmental catastrophe to hit the region emerged. The oil spill is particularly devastating because it took place upstream in a river system. The oil quickly spread to a second river and networks of canals where oil dispersants could not be used.

The immediate aftermath

Amir Hossain Chowdhury, Chief Forestry Officer of the Sundarbans commented,

“It is a catastrophe for the delicate ecology of the Sundarbans. We don’t know how to tackle this. We’re worried about its long-term impact, because it happened in a fragile and sensitive mangrove ecosystem”.

Bangladesh does not have the knowledge or equipment to deal with the crisis as was advised by the Sea Alarm Foundation Report 2010.

Oil 1

The clean up

Local villagers tried to clean up the oil by standing in the polluted water, trying to collect oil using cloth and their bare hands. This was completely inadequate, dangerous as the chemicals in furnace oil are poisonous and made the situation worse by walking oil into the mud causing more contamination. The authorities then started using buoys to try to restrict the oil slick and nets to stop the oil entering more canals. Less than 13,000 gallons have been collected using these methods.

oil 2

Belatedly, a team of UN experts arrived to assess the situation but there is no report yet. Water Defense has a plan for cleaning up the oil (but not debris or wildlife) but needs to raise another $100,000. Watch the video from Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo on Facebook.

Bangladeshi based Porshee also need money to collect debris and to fund doctors to treat locals.

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MyaMya-Rose Craig is based in the UK and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world.  Part of her family is from Bangladesh, where she hopes to promote bird conservation and tours.  She has recently been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisy Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol’s most influential young people.  Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on  Twitter @BirdgirlUK

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