A committee – formed by the Cox's Bazar district administration – is looking into how a large volume of waste including empty liquor bottles, plastic, electronic waste, and nylon fishing net washed onto the Cox's Bazar beach on Saturday.
Many turtles and snakes, both dead and dying, also washed ashore along with the garbage in the five km stretch of the beach – from Dorianagar to Himchhari.
Formed on Monday evening, the seven-member committee – comprised of experts and led by the district's Additional Deputy Commissioner Mohammed Ashraful Afsar – will try to figure out the causes behind the incident.
Confirming the matter to The Business Standard, Cox's Bazar Deputy Commissioner Kamal Hossain said, "The committee will test the level of pollution in the sea. Meanwhile, the waste is being removed from the beach.
"A massive clean-up campaign will soon begin with the engagement of NGOs."
To find the cause of the turtles' death that washed ashore, their carcasses have been sent to the lab of Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University.
There are no fishing boats on the Bay of Bengal now due to a 65-day fishing ban imposed since 20 May. At this time, the incident of marine wildlife, both dead and alive, being washed ashore has alarmed scientists.
Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute's Chief Scientific Officer Dr Md Shafiqur Rahman said, "December-January is the breeding season of sea turtles. They come ashore to lay eggs at this time. But it is a worrying signal to see turtles dying or being endangered during this monsoon.
"We have examined if the seawater has suddenly been polluted due to the waste. Tests conducted in our laboratory on July 13 found the seawater to be normal. Tidal water from the sea will be sent to Dhaka for further testing."
Meanwhile, local sources said during the first monsoon rains, tonnes of waste wash into the sea with the water running down along the slope of the mountain upstream through many rivers and canals of Cox's Bazar and Chattogram.
Waste falls into the sea through many rivers and canals, including Reju and Mankhali of Marine Drive. The wastes that washed ashore recently could be a part of that.
An inspection team, led by Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute Senior Scientific Officer Ashraful Hoque, is primarily assuming that the waste was tied with nets, and due to hostile weather, it got scattered and landed on the beach along with the nets.
Waves of waste – mostly plastic bottles and fishing nets – floated ashore on July 11, and turtle and snake carcasses were spotted on the dunes on early July 12.
At least 50 turtles were found dead on Cox's Bazar beach during July 12-13. At that time, at least 50 plus turtles that washed ashore after getting entangled in plastic waste were rescued.
Sources said that although the volume of waste floating ashore had decreased, dead and dying sea turtles and snakes continued to be washed ashore.
The local people rushed to the beach to rescue at least two dozen wounded turtles that washed ashore since morning till late evening on July 13. They released the rescued turtles back to the sea.