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Tourists ignore ECA law

St Martin`s under threat

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12th-Jan-2017       
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Gazi Anowarul Hoque :
The biodiversity of the country's only coral Island of St Martin's is under threat, as the tourists ignore Ecologically Critical Area (ECA) law, sources said.
There is no awareness program to make the tourists conscious about the ECA law, even there is none to guard the Department of Environment (DoE) building, they said.
Tourists disturb the turtle's habitat, buy coral and throw non-biodegradable trash and debris in the sea.
Shariful Islam, Assistant Director of DoE in Cox's Bazar told the New Nation on Tuesday that a five-year government project named "Biodiversity protection and Eco-tourism" ended in 2001. There is no such work in the island for long since then.   
The ministry declared the St. Martin's island as ECA in 1999, but did not yet give any guideline for tourists and the inhabitants of the island, because the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation
opposed it, he said. The government did not take any major initiative to make the declaration effective for lack of manpower, said Shariful Islam.
Indiscriminate anchoring of tourist boats and fishing vessels are gradually damaging the coral reefs, changing the dynamics posing threat to the country's only coral Island of St. Martin's, according to experts.
Garbage thrown on shore or dumped into the sea by hotels and tourists near the island is polluting of the seabed, scientists say.
"Attention must be given to the development of island as 25 percent of all marine lives depend on corals. Without coral reefs, fishes would have no shelter to live and to lay their eggs, but most of the corals are ruined for excessive anchoring of tourists boats near the jetty of the island," Dr Anisuzzaman Khan, a biodiversity expert, who recently dived 22 feet into the water around the island, told The New Nation on Tuesday.
Govt should declare the Island as Marine Protected Area (MPA). Its implementation should come from Ministry of Environment and Forests and Ministry of Fisheries, he opined.
Anisuzzaman suggested that researchers only should be allowed to land in the island. Teknaf based tourism infrastructure should be made by the government.
SM Atiqur Rahman, Director of Save Our Sea (SOS), a marine conservation organization and ocean explorer said though the island was declared to be an ecologically critical area, no government agency as well as others, including the DoE have made an effort to conserve ecological resources in and around the island.  On top of it, growing numbers of tourists are polluting and damaging the natural habitats of many species.
Both the DoE and the SOS blamed unplanned tourism and pollution caused by vessels for the current situation. At least five to seven ships travel with 5,000 tourists every day, except during the monsoon season, travel to and from the island. 

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