Sundarbans oil spill
Ecological disaster looms after major oil spill in Sundarbans dolphin sanctuary Md. Ashik-Ur Rahman/YouTube screenshot

Bangladeshi government authorities are wading into action after a major oil spill in a Sundarbans sanctuary, which shelters the rare Irrawaddy dolphin species, is threatening to become a major ecological disasters.

More than 350,000 litres of oil spilled into the river after the tanker collided with another vessel with a vast majority of the slick entering one of the three sections of the Sundarbans, a UNESCO natural heritage site.

"The oil tanker, Southern Star 7, has been salvaged. A rescue vessel pulled it out from the river and towed it to a nearby shoal," a forest official was quoted as saying. The rescue boat took two days to reach the capsized vessel.

Forest officials estimate the oil could have polluted 34,000 hectares of the Sundarbans' rivers and canals.

The government has appointed a committee to estimate the effects of oil spill on the ecology of the unique forest ecology which include several rare species.

"Dolphins are at the top of the food chain so they will be affected sooner or later by eating fish from these waters. The oil slick collects at the confluences and meanders of the river and those are the places that the dolphins like to hang around in and look for prey. Coming up in an oil slick, opening a blow hole and breathing in and breathing out won't be a good idea because the air right above the oil slick will be quite toxic," Rubaiyat Mansur, Bangladesh head of the Wildlife Conservation Society, told India's

Another endangered specie which authorities fear would be endangered are the iconic tigers of Sundarbans. Even though the tigers may not be affected immediately, it is likely to have an influence on their movements and hunting pattern.

As soon as the news of the oil spill spread, local fishermen and villagers started mopping up oil in their area and were helping government authorities.

Legally, oil tankers are not allowed to use the river route via the sanctuary, nonetheless vessels frequently flout the ban.

Here's the video of the oil slick.

Looming ecological disaster after major oil spill in Sundarbans dolphin sanctuary Md. Ashik-Ur Rahman/YouTube