Sundarbarans on the Solstice: Still Cleaning Up an Oil Spill With Spoons

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OilSpillSundarbans1214By Ruby Red Shoes on DailyKos.

(Children cleaning up Sundabarans oils spill December 2014. Photo: Photo by: Kallol Mustafa. )

[L]ast week the news of an oil spill in the world’s largest mangrove forest reached a few media channels but remained for the most part under the radar and under-reported. In a previous diary, Let Them Eat Oil, I take a brief look at poverty and development in general in Bangladesh. Labeled a “basket case” during the cold war, Bangladesh’s large and somewhat congested population must share the River Ganges, the jungles of Assam, the world’s largest mangrove forest at the Sundarban UNESCO World Heritage Site now covered in oil, with some of the most vulnerable and endangered wildlife in the world including elephants, dolphins and tigers.

These people need our help.  These creatures need our help. The few pristine wild places left on the planet are the current generations’ charge to honor and maintain with the deepest respect for life and the utmost care. I am not talking about making a deal with strings attached that tie assistance to a permanent development contract shaping Bangladesh’s “emerging economy” — attractive to “strategic investors” for its abundant “human capital” workforce and terrific potential for urbanization. The business-as-usual development model that relies on prisons and sweatshops is an insult to the elephants and to each and every Bangladeshi child. The world needs to care about Bangladesh and the Sundarban reserve without asking, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”

Why has a UNESCO World Heritage site, a so-called “reserve” for endangered dolphins, been left for what’s going on two weeks now to local villagers wading into the muck with spoons?

The CITES treaty “is an international agreement between governments [which aims to] ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.” Where is the international agreement to ensure that trade inself, be it in oil or prison designs and training or in sweatshop t-shirts or safari tourism, does not threaten their survival? When do we decide the world will make room for the wild and care to keep it healthy and safe?

Where is the international agreement addressing oil spills? Where is the realism when it comes to dumping oil into the ocean? Have we created yet another disturbing “exception to the rule” of law, yet another awful excuse for impunity? An area of the world is currently being destroyed, by mistake. It will never be what it once was, but it might recover in part if it is cleaned up as well as possible and rescued.

Are we really leaving that job to Bangladeshi children?


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