Rivers routes in the Sundarbans should be off-limits to all types of cargo vessels carrying coal, oil, chemical, cement and hazardous materials, for preserving the world's largest mangrove forest, said speakers at a roundtable yesterday.
They also recommended imposing a ban on such vessels plying through the Sundarbans and conducting surveys on ecology and bio-diversity after a ship capsizes.
They said the authorities' negligence and mismanagement were the reasons behind the recent capsizal of a vessel in the Sundarbans.
At the same time, negligence and mismanagement were also behind the recent train accidents in the country.
The speakers demanded modernisation of the railway, increase of its manpower, locomotives and continuous monitoring and maintenance of the rail lines.
“Accidents are taking place due to a lack of accountability of the government and its associate bodies. They have to be brought under accountability to stop recurrence of such accidents,” said Abdus Sobhan, general secretary of Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba).
Poba along with BARSIK and WBB Trust organised the roundtable titled, “Reasons of Rail Accident and Capsize of Ship in Sundarbans and Responsibilities”, at Poba's office in the capital.
Four people died and 26 were injured in a rail accident on Sunday while a vessel sank in the Sundarbans' Pashur river with 775 tonnes of coal after it ran aground Saturday night.
Ecologist and researcher Pavel Partha, in his written speech, said over a dozen ships and launches sank in rivers inside the Sundarbans in the last three decades.
In most cases, accidents occurred due to a fault in the vessels' design and negligence of the authorities concerned, he said.
He said such frequent accidents are harming the flora and fauna and putting the entire ecosystem at stake as well as breaking the food-cycle for the lives of the world's largest mangrove forest, also the largest harbor of Iraboti Dolphin, reports UNB.
He said the eastern side of the forest has been declared as a world heritage site and the frequent incidents of fire and ship capsize are putting the heritage site in a great danger.
Partha also feared that the river routes of the Sundarbans will be busier with the start of Rampal power plant project's work, and the incidents of capsize might also increase.
He recommended conducting proper investigations into the recent ship capsizals, publishing the probe report and bringing the perpetrators to book. He also recommended forming a cell with experts, environmentalists and journalists to prevent such incidents.
Prof Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, chairman of the environmental science department of Stamford University Bangladesh, said both the railway and river transport are pro-people, cost effective and environment-friendly.
Instead of being patronised, both the sectors remain neglected. As a result, people are not getting any benefit, he said.
In the discussion, the speakers also raised the issue of mismanagement and a lack in work force in the rail sector, resulting in graft practices causing frequent rail accidents.
They said at least 63 percent rail accidents occurred due to derailments and the main reason behind it is the rail officials' irresponsibility.
They also said there were only 26,000 workers in the rail department and to modernise the sector, employing skilled workforce was a must.
Abu Naser Khan, chairman of Poba, who presided over the roundtable, urged all to be united to save the transport sectors as well as the environment.