The Freshwater Trail

The Black Legacy On December 9, 2014, 358,000 liters of heavy fuel oil gushed into the Sundarbans. The effect on the “Beautiful Forest” was not pretty
Arati Kumar-Rao
Photographer & Journalist
A light oil sheen dances in with the tides a week after the oil spill
40 km downstream from the oil spill, thick black goo clung to trees as lighter oil floated on the water
Oil, carried in by hyacinth floating on the tides, infiltrates a channel (khal)
When khals get contaminated, the oil does not recede easily
As the pre-dawn fog lifts, the slick comes into view. Stretching for almost 80 km down the Sela river, the oil floated out and back in with the tides
An estuarine crocodile smeared in black, a few kilometers from the scene of the spill. Its fate is unknown
Oil sheen on the river tributaries in khals
Badly oiled sediment (mudflats) and three meters of vegetation on the shores around Mrigamari, where the oil tanker ran aground
The slick ranged in color from black to brown to the colors of the rainbow. This area was closer to the scene of the spill
Blackened aerial roots (pneumatophores) of trees.
The high tide line stands three meters above the water at low tide, and the vegetation sports the tell tale black of the oil
Fishing nets hung across khals to prevent the oil from infiltrating the khals during high tide. But it went in anyway.
Aerial view of the slick coming back in with the high tide
Oil sheen floating in and out of a khal
Fishermen's nets turned black within minutes of hitting the river, making them unusable in the long run
Fresh tiger pug marks in a khal swimming with oil. The nature of the pugmarks seemed to suggest that the tiger was chasing a deer across the khal
Heavily oiled sediments and vegetation, a few kilometers from the scene of the oil spill
Drinking water options were few for the worst affected village of Joymoni. The fishermen fetched water from a river running black
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