The Mongla Port Authority (MPA) will dredge the outer bar of the channel of the Pashur river to facilitate movement of vessels with higher draft.
The dredging will take place as per the recommendation of the UNESCO that asked the MPA not to destroy the lone breeding ground of marine animals with dredged materials at the ‘swatch of no ground,’ officials said.
The World Heritage Centre (WHC) under the UNESCO expressed the fear that the dumping of the dredged materials in the ‘swatch of no ground’ may destroy the habitat of marine animals.
The ‘swatch of no ground’ is a 14 km-wide deep sea area of the Bay of Bengal, located south of Sundarbans National Park and the island of Dublar Char.
The area hosts important habitats for cetaceans including endangered species like various dolphins, Irrawaddy dolphins, and Bryde’s whales.
A Tk 7.33 billion project, funded from the state coffer, has been taken to dredge the channel on direct purchase method.
Earlier, the Institute of Water Modelling (IWM) conducted a feasibility study of the project which suggested that the dredged materials can be thrown in ‘swatch of no ground area.’
However, environmentalists and the WHC expressed their reservation over throwing of the dredged materials close to the Sundarbans, a heritage site.
Officials said responding to the objections made by WHC and environmental activists, the IWM later revisited the study report and suggested that the dredged materials should be thrown at least 50 to 70 kilometres inside the deep see so that those can’t harm the ‘swatch of no ground’ and the Sundarbans.
Sources said the ministry of shipping (MoS) held a meeting recently to decide on the issue and asked the MPA to follow the UNESCO suggestion in this case.
The ministry also asked the port authority to get approval of the amended study report of the IWM from the department of environment.
MPA chairman AKM Faruque Hassan earlier told the FE the port will be very busy once vehicles start plying through the Padma Bridge, handling of transit cargoes of neighbouring countries begins and construction of Rampal power plant starts.
He said several other coal-fired power plants are also to be built adjacent to the Mongla port area.
The port will be busier while handling coal for the power plants.
“So, we need to dredge the channel to help plying of bigger vessels in future,” Mr Hassan noted.
According to officials, some 10 million cubic metres of sands will be dredged from the river bed at the outer bar of the Pashur channel under the project to help ships anchor up to 10.5 metres draft during natural tide.
The UNESCO has reservations over carrying out any development activities adjacent to the Sundarbans, including construction of Rampal coal-fired power plant, which could be harmful for the world’s largest mangrove forest.
The UN agency also objected to plying of vessels in the rivers inside the Sundarbans as ships’ movement can affect its magnificent flora and fauna and the natural ecosystem.
In the recent years, several vessels, laden with fuel oil, fertilisers and some other goods sank in the Sundarbans rivers triggering criticism from environmentalists at home and abroad.