Anwar Hossain, Back from Saint Martin
Extensive use of plastic materials, mostly containers and their dumping largely by tourists, is seriously polluting environment of the beaches in Saint Martin Island in south of Cox’s Bazar.
The livelihoods of local people who depend on natural resources are seriously threatened by such dumping of plastic waste without any control and monitoring.
Many nonprofit organisations including the government companies have come forward to resolve the problems but situation seems to be worsening with each day passing.
Local people of the island said that they know about many projects but in reality they do not see any visible activities. For example, they said there are no particular waste bins in the island or any waste collection system. With each tourist ship arriving thousands of tourists arrive and leave behind huge waste in the island.
Another example they showed that is the island which is known as ‘Narikel Zinzira’ is now facing crisis of coconuts. At the same time, during night time many dead creatures of sea washed the shore. Besides, fishermen are also netting less fish than before.
The local people have demanded sustainable project to deal the growing problems of solid waste management.
The current UP chairman of St. Martin's Union Mujibur Rahman said, "To raise awareness some organisations are working in the island. Besides from government side many banners and signboards have been displayed to make tourist aware about effects of such plastic waste pollution in the island."
According to him, government notice are regularly sent to all resorts, hotels and motels to act and keep their premises clean but it is noticed that they care less about propoer dumping of waste. Besides, in many points beach side shopkeepers leave garbage around the beach.
According to information, at present there are more than 200 hotels and resorts in the island. During the tourist season nothing left empty. During that time, bottled water and beverage are consumed in a significant number. But later empty bottle dumping of recycling system is absent there.
In recent times, with the help of island people and different organizations, massive amount of waste plastics have been collected. As a part of annual International Coastal Cleanup and Coca-Cola’s global initiative to achieve a ‘World without Waste’ by 2030, the Coca-Cola System in Bangladesh with other participants managed to remove more than 1800kgs of marine debris from the shores of St Martin’s. Most of the marine debris consisted of food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic bags, plastic utensils, plastic lids etc.
Managing Director of Coca-Cola Bangladesh Ta Duy Tung said, “Plastic pollution is a problem faced globally and it is a problem we humans created. Among our many plastic waste management initiatives, we conduct this coastal clean-up drive. This is a responsibility we all have to acknowledge and anyone visiting these areas shouldn’t pollute natural beauties. I sincerely hope, through this initiative, people will be more aware, and we will be able to achieve a world without waste.”
In the St. Martin’s conclave, variety of algae, snail-mussels and countless species of fishes are seen. This island is also famous for the Green Sea Turtle, olive-colored Sea Turtle, and several species of corals.
Due to the arrival of uncontrolled number of tourists during the peak season, the government has taken various legal steps by imposing restrictions to protect the beauty and nature of the island. Various public and private organizations including the Department of Environment are working.
Sadly, despite the laws to protect the environment, there is hardly any enforcement. Various non-biodegradable waste including plastic bottles, chips packets, pickle packets, polythene, cans, tea cups, water bottles, straws, packets, pieces of fishing nets, nylon ropes are scattered all over the island.
Apart from this, household waste is added along with hundreds of small and large hotels and restaurants that emerged over the recent past. Due to this, environmental activists have raised questions about the activities of the officials of the organization working with the island, including the Department of Environment.
Country Co-coordinator of Ocean Conservancy Muntasir Mamun told Bangladesh, “Thousands of tourists visit Saint Martin’s Island every year. It’s all of our responsibility to keep it clean and preserve this natural beauty. With the help of Coca-Cola, we have been driving this initiative for past 12 years but I urge everyone to take step from their own places and keep this beautiful island clean for the future generation.”
Another non-profit organization has came up with an unique idea that raised enthusiasm among the local peoples. It is giving a kilogram of rice for a kilogram of waste plastics. A much needed other essentials are also available there in exchange for waste plastics.
Local people said that they are happy with such steps which is not only helping to clean the beaches but also arranging essentials for them.