The coral island Saint Martin’s is one of the main tourist attractions in the country. The peak season for tourists on this island ended about one and a half months ago. However, degradable and non-degradable waste is scattered all over the island.
This garbage is damaging the ecological balance and beauty of the island. The locals and tourists are suffering from the stench of this waste. The local public representatives claim that hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Saint Martin’s island every year.
They dump various types of waste on the beach every year. At the same time, many local restaurants also dump waste on the beach. There are no statistics on the amount of waste being generated.
Tofail Ahmed, president of Sea Cruise Operators Owners Association of Bangladesh (SCOOAB), an organisation of ship owners, said, ships ply on three maritime routes. These ships have a capacity of carrying 3,200 passengers.
As such, a total of 480,000 tourists have visited the island in the five months (November, December, January, February and March) of last season. The ship owners have no figures on how many people went to Saint Martin’s island by wooden trawlers and speedboats.
The district and upazila administration imposed a ban on the movement of 10 vessels on Chattogram-Saint Martin’s, Teknaf-Saint Martin’s and Cox’s Bazar-Saint Martin’s routes from 31 March. Despite that, more than 600 tourists went to visit the island on trawlers and speedboats on the occasion of Eid–ul-Fitr.
On Sunday, it was seen that the natural beauty of the island had been tarnished by the waste scattered all over the beach. As far as the eye can see, all over the jetty and the sand dunes at the west point, there are only piles of waste.
The tourists feel queasy with the unhygienic and filthy environment of the beach. Several types of non-degradable waste, including glass bottles, plastic bottles, empty packets of chips and pickles, polythene, cups, straws, biscuit packets and nylon rope are spread over an area of one and a half to two kilometres.
In addition to the wastes from more than 100 big and small hotels and restaurants, there is household garbage. The waste from the hotels and motels directly fall into the sea, which has made the beach unsuitable for tourists.
There are five people from the Department of Environment for the protection of the island. One of them is Abdul Hamid. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said, “There is no official here. We conduct a campaign on a regular basis to encourage the tourists to not dump waste here and there. However, the tourists do not pay attention. The Department of Environment alone cannot save the island.”
Md Joynal, supervisor of beach management under the district administration, says there are six workers there for beach management including him. Despite the on-going travel ban, more than 600 tourists came to visit the island in trawlers and speedboats on Eid vacation. Several places on the beach have turned into piles of wastes.
We don’t have any funds allocated to keep the island clean. Despite that, we will try to recruit some cleaners before the next tourist season
Mujibur Rahman, chairman of Saint Martin’s union parishad (UP), said, “We don’t have any funds allocated to keep the island clean. Despite that, we will try to recruit some cleaners before the next tourist season.”
Mujibur Rahman further said, “The Department of Environment has hung up some signboards. However, they don’t do anything for the sake of the tourists or the locals. The shopkeepers sell coconuts, soft drinks and food items on the beach and on the island. However, both the shopkeepers and the tourists are dumping waste randomly, which is creating piles of garbage on the beach.
On 19 April 1999, the Ministry of Environment and Forests declared six areas of the country, including Saint Martin’s island, Cox's Bazar and Teknaf Beach, as ‘ecologically critical areas’
When asked, Kaisar Khasru, upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) of Teknaf, said, “Steps will be taken to keep the beach clean by contacting the public representatives of the local union parishad.”
On 19 April 1999, the Ministry of Environment and Forests declared six areas of the country, including Saint Martin’s island, Cox's Bazar and Teknaf Beach, as ‘ecologically critical areas’.
Despite that, several environmentally destructive works, including free movement of the tourists, desolation of screw pine forest and lifting stones for construction works, which has made the erosion of the island more severe. Beside the extraction and supply of snails, oysters, corals and stones has not stopped either.