Tourism in the island of St. Martin, the only coral island of the country, has been taking a serious hit, as there is only one jetty in the island located on the southernmost corner of the country.
That old and ill-maintained jetty has been left in a severely damaged condition for a long time now but still it has not been repaired. Concerned residents believe quick renovation of the jetty can boost up tourism in the island even more.
This puts the livelihood and employment of at least 50,000 people involved in the tourism sector at risk. If the jetty is not repaired soon, the tourism industry will suffer and the government will lose a huge amount of revenue in turn.
Cox's Bazar District Branch of a non-governmental organization working for the development of tourism in Bangladesh, organized a press conference recently in the conference room of a residential hotel in Cox's Bazar city to demand speedy repair of the jetty of St. Martin island.
Tofail Ahmed, President of the Cox's Bazar district branch of the organization, said at the press conference that 7-8 ships, 200-300 buses, minibuses, 100 microbuses, 200 tour operators, 400 tourist guides and 50,000 people including small traders are involved in the tourism business in St. Martin's Island.
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The only medium of all these activities is through the only Jetty on the island. The old jetty has not been renovated for a long time. Since then, it has been devastated by several recent cyclones and has become almost unusable at present.
Tofail Ahmed, a tourism entrepreneur, said much of the St. Martin jetty has collapsed in the last few years due to the cyclone. The platoon is ruined. The jetty was further damaged by the latest cyclone on May 26. Even the trawler anchoring side of the jetty has broken down.
That is why movement on the jetty has become unsuitable at present. This has put the tourism centered traders into a dilemma as they have invested a lot in their trades based on the island.
Habibur Rahman Khan, Panel Chairman of St. Martin's Island, said it was difficult for people on the island to go to Teknaf for advanced treatment using the jetty when they fell ill. The islanders cannot bring their daily necessities. The people of the island suffered severe financial damage and suffering due to this.
Jetty crossing is by no means possible in this situation. Tofail Ahmed, district president of ‘Cox's Bazar, Bay of Bengal’ organisation, fears that about 50,000 people involved in the tourism sector on the island will suffer a lot financially if the jetty is not renovated soon.
Highlighting the condition of the island, Tofail Ahmed also said that a large portion of the tourists visiting Cox's Bazar visit St. Martin. More than two hundred hotels, motels and guest houses have been built on the island for them. There are hundreds of restaurants there too.
Currently, the only source of income for the islanders is tourism. So, local businessmen have a lot of investment in capitalizing on tourism. The residents of the island lead their lives all throughout the year with the income they generate during the five-month long tourism season. If the jetty is not repaired in time, their source of income will be closed and the government will be deprived of revenue as well.
Cox's Bazar LGED Executive Engineer Md Anisur Rahman said, “We have handed over the jetty to the Zila Parishad by constructing the jetty of St. Martin in 2011. Every year they collect revenue by leasing it. They can reform it if they want.”
“However, if the ministry gives us responsibility, we will repair it. However, in that case, the issue of giving clearance from the Ministry of Environment is also important”, he added.
“We are doing tourism business by preserving the environment and surroundings of St. Martin's Island,” said Tofail Ahmed, managing director of Bay of Bengal, a tourist service organization. Tourists who travel there are made aware of the importance of protecting the environment and biodiversity.
MA Hasib Badal, SM Kibria Khan, Senior Vice President Mohammad Touhidul Islam Toha, Vice President Iftikhar Ahmad Chowdhury, SA Kajal, Nurul Alam Rony and Senior Joint Secretary Md. Al Amin believe snow.
Sahab Uddin Johnny, Jamal Uddin, Johnny Bhuiyan, Forkan Jewel are among the tourism businessmen and tour operators. Besides, tour guides of various tourism organizations were also present.