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9/28/2007

'Save bio-diversity of St Martin's Island'

Filed under: bangladesh,General,global islands — admin @ 4:50 am

Environmentalists call to stop its use for commercial tourism

Expressing deep concern over gradual destruction of the bio-diversity
of Saint Martin’s Island, environmentalists yesterday demanded that
the government take effective steps to make it a ‘marine protected
area’ based on scientific researches and stop its use for commercial
tourism.

They recalled that the island, one of the finest coral islands of the
world, was already declared an ‘ecologically critical area’ and
projects were undertaken to protect its marine resources. But
implementation of the projects was impeded as the officials concerned
lacked knowledge and skills required for this and in absence of proper
monitoring by the government, they said.

The environmentalists spoke at a seminar in the city on “Saint
Martin’s Island is on the verge of destruction: what is the way to
save it?” organised by Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa).

The government should consider if the entire island could be brought
under conservation schemes, speakers said.

People from other areas are buying land and constructing buildings in
the island threatening its bio-diversity, they pointed out at the
seminar held at Women’s Voluntary Association auditorium at Dhanmondi.

“We destroy our natural resources like hills, forests and rivers in
various ways without realising the consequences of destruction of
bio-diversity. We must be careful that we do not destroy Saint
Martin’s Island in the name of eco-tourism,” said Bapa President Prof
Muzaffer Ahmed.

Legal and administrative steps should be taken to save the island, and
public awareness has to be created in this regard, he said.
“Commercial use of the island should be stopped.”

Dr Khandkar Rashedul Haque, director general of the Department of
Environment, said eco-tourism is possible in the island but it must be
regulated keeping the nature unharmed by travellers.

“Political will is the main factor in this regard,” he said.
Influential people using their links with political high-ups buy land
and do things arbitrarily in the island.

Difference of opinions among various ministries and departments on
environmental issues is a hurdle for the appropriate authorities in
taking proper steps concerning projects on environment and
bio-diversity.

Former marine official and researcher Saiful Alam Paikar said most of
the recommendations of the National Conservation Strategy
Implementation Project–Phase -1 taken up by the Ministry of Forest
and Environment in 1992 were not implemented.

A Tk 15-crore project on conservation of bio-diversity ended on June
30 this year without setting up a marine park and a sanctuary, badly
needed for marine resources.

There is still lack of long-term planning and steps for alternative
livelihood of the local people, he said, adding that commercial and
unplanned tourism has put the island in a risky situation.

Syeda Rizwana Hassan of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers’ Association
said there is a realisation that Saint Martin’s Island should be
conserved but effective steps for this are yet to be taken.

Tourism should be regulated there, she said.

Speakers included Dhaka University teachers AQM Mahbub, Kazi Zaker
Hossain and Nurul Islam Nazem, Bapa Vice President Qazi Modina,
General Secretary Dr Abdul Matin, former marine official Khorshed
Alam, and Abdus Salam, who hails from the island.

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