The government will launch a pilot project in December next, aiming to bring tourism management in the Sundarbans under automation with a smart app.
Using the app, 'Sundarbans', one can get all the travel formalities done sitting at home. This will not only save the time of travellers but also ensure hassle-free booking process and make things easier for the forest department to provide better services to tourists.
According to the Forest Department, this automation programme on Sundarbans travel management is being implemented under the Skill Development Project of Mobile Games and Applications by the Department of Information and Communication Technology.
Mihir Kumar Dey, the forest conservator of Khulna region, said, "The Sundarbans tourism management is being automated as part of building a Digital Bangladesh. It's being implemented under the A2I programme of the Prime Minister's Office."
This will further improve the tourism activities of the forest department and will benefit all those involved in tourism.
A tourist from any part of the country or abroad can access all the information about Sundarbans travel through this app. Here one can find the lists of tourism centres and vessels, including the addresses and phone numbers of vessel owners and other information as this mangrove forest has certain tourist attractions for one or three-day trips.
If a tourist wants to visit the Sundarbans for just one day, he or she can enter the apps and click on the one-day travel option and the names of Karamjal, Harbaria, Kalagachia and Shekhertech tourist centers will come. The place of departure and the names, addresses and vessel fares will be displayed in detail.
Two hundred tourists can travel together every hour through the one-day tourist centre as it is aimed at preventing crowds and maintaining biodiversity of the forest.
In the case of more than 200 tourists per hour, they will be registered for the next hour. This is how 1,600 tourists can visit the Sundarbans in eight hours every day.
Similarly, those who want to visit the Sundarbans for three days can also see the names of Katka, Kachikhali, Dublar Char and Nilkamal (Hironpoint) tourist centres and access the names and addresses of the vessels, names of their owners and the number of seats available.
Dr Abu Naser Mohsin Hossain, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Sundarbans West Division and the focal person of the automation project, said about 1.5 to 2 lakh of tourists visit the Sundarbans every year.
"Proper management of this huge number of tourists with limited manpower becomes difficult. However, the work will be much easier if the automation system is implemented," he said.
Dr Hossain said, "It'll also be mentioned in the app whether there's any permission to operate a ship in a specific place and time. There's little chance of carrying out any illegal activity here."
A ship will be allowed to enter the Sundarbans only when all the conditions related to travel are complied. Besides, there'll be a roaster for every ship to prevent large gatherings of tourists. Ships more than 10 won't be allowed in a tourist centre in one night. A total of 40 ships will be allowed to stay separately in the four tourist centres during the three-day trip.
The forest officers concerned of the tourist centres will have lists of the ship location.
Talking to UNB, Md Masum Mia, a tourist, said, "We enjoy this facility while travelling abroad and this automation of the Sundarbans tourism is a matter of great pleasure for us. This will attract more tourists to the world's largest mangrove forest."
Moinul Islam Joardar, President of Tour Operators Association of Sundarbans (TOAS), said the Sundarbans tour automation system will take the implementation process of 'Digital Bangladesh' one step forward.
"We hope tourists, all - the tour operators and the forest department -- will benefit from the automation. However, in this automation system, all concerned should be mindful about one fact: there shouldn't be anything that hinders travel," Moinul added.
Abu Naser said this automation system will be implemented from December, while the traditional one will continue alongside for a year to make tourists accustomed to it.
This is how, he said, the Sundarbans will one day get a very systematic tourism management.