Oil spill threatens rare Bangladesh dolphin breeding zone

CHITTAGONG, BANGLADESH (AFP) – An oil spill on a river in southeast Bangladesh has threatened the breeding ground of the critically endangered Ganges dolphin, environmentalists said yesterday, describing it as a “major disaster” for the mammal.

A tanker carrying 1,200 tonnes of diesel collided with another ship on the Karnaphuli river near Chittagong port last Friday and spilled tonnes of fuel, port authority spokesman Omar Faruk said. At least 10 tonnes of diesel spread across an area of 16 kilometres, he added, but local media said the amount spilled was likely to be far higher.

Environmentalists said the spillage posed a “serious threat to the marine biodiversity in the river”, particularly for some 60 freshwater dolphins who use the area as their breeding ground.

Marine science expert Shafiqul Islam said it was a “major disaster” for the river’s dolphin population as they could inhale toxic petroleum vapours while surfacing to breathe.