Bar on tourists at night in St Martin’s to hit hard tourism business

Abdur Rahman, Teknaf
Published : 06:00, Oct 10, 2018 | Updated : 11:29, Oct 10, 2018

The government has moved to ban tourists from staying overnight St Martin’s Island in Bay of Bengal, which local residents said will hit hard the tourism business of Bangladesh’s lone coral island.
The news broke recently after an inter-ministerial committee recommended the ban in an effort to save its biodiversity.
Officials said the ban is likely to come into effect from Mar 1 next year.
The committee, however, recommended allowing tourists during daytime with a ban on visiting Chera Deep and Gola Chipa parts of the island.
Around 10 to 20 thousands tourists visit the 8-square kilometer island daily during the peak tourist season (between October and March).
The panel also recommended banning plying of motor-cycle, car and speed-boat on the island and a blackout during nighttime to protect its eco-system.
Explaining the reason behind the government move, Cox’s Bazar’s Department of Environment official Saiful Islam said, “Additional population and buildings pose threat to the environment and eco-system of the island.”
The possible ban came as a worry to the residents as well as the businesses in island, which is home to nearly 8,500 people.
“Nearly 5,000 of the island’s population live on tourism,” Local Union Parisand Chairman Nur Ahmed told Bangla Tribune. “If the government decides to ban the tourists’ entry and relocate its population, it has to arrange jobs for the residents,” he added.
A St Martin’s resident Abul Hashem said, “People had lived here by fishing before the tourists started to come. Since then, they got involved with tourism.”
“If the tourists are banned from spending the nights on the island we will lose business,” he said.
“With the tourism season nears, businesses fear that the possible ban may cause a sharp decline in revenue,” Saint Martin’s Hotel and Cottage Association President Mujibur Rahman told Bangla Tribune.
Rahman urged the government to reconsiders its decision.
Local authorities, however, are yet to act.
“The government has taken new plans for the island, which will be implemented immediately after receiving the official order,” said Teknaf Upazila administration chief (UNO) Robiul Islam.