Ships polluting Chittagong port area

Hundreds of ships visiting Bangladesh's main port in Chittagong are taking advantage of lax laws and logistic backups against dumping of pollutants into the sea with officials struggling to stop it with only a binocular and a camera. "Foreign and local ships find the Chittagong Port and its outer anchorage a safe dumping area for their waste, taking advantage of poor laws and their lax implementation due to logistic support," an official of the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) told the news agency today. He said taking the advantage of the situation, many of the ships dump pollutants in the sea or pollute the air emitting black smoke.

"We detected about 700 offending vessels over the last three years and fined them" but could not completely stop the oil spillage, dumping of other pollutants and emission of black smokes, said Mohammad Munir Chowdhury, a magistrate with the CPA. The port magistracy, he said, equipped with only one ordinary camera and a binocular is fighting against the pollution. "I see the ships with binocular and photograph the scenes as evidence for fining them." Chowdhury and other officials, however, said many foreign ships used to dump burnt oil in the outer anchorage of the port defying international regulations but tough vigilance and mobile court actions have stopped such attempts.

Nearly Taka 1.5 crore was realised as fine from 700 ships, of them 130 foreign ones, while 50 of them were detained on charges of dumping pollutants. The 117-year-old port handles more than 80 per cent of Bangladesh's foreign trade with average 1,600 ships using the facility annually. An environment department official alleged that despite their repeated pleas to the CPA for creating necessary provisions for clearing garbage on shore and at sea yielded a little result. "Any other international port would impose heavy penalties or even seize ships if they violated marine laws or polluted the sea," he said (BSS, Independent, July 29, 2005).

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