POST TIME: 12 January, 2018 12:38:24 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 12 January, 2018 12:22:40 PM
Coral island St Martin’s under threat amid huge tourist pressure
Tareque Moretaza

Coral island St Martin’s under threat amid huge tourist pressure

A ship carries hundreds of tourists to Saint Martin’s Island daily in peak season. PHOTO: COLLECTED

The tourism business in Saint Martin’s Island has started gaining momentum after some recent disruption due to the Rohingya crisis. Usually, the running of ships carrying tourists begins from late September or the beginning of October. However, this year, the ferrying started from November 13. The movement of tourists will begin to shrink from March 30. Short-trip facilities to the island have been attracting travellers every day. Tourists are reported to be crowding the island especially on Fridays and Saturdays and other holidays, said Mohammad Ilias, a local inhabitant of the island. He also said, “Tourists arrive mainly on holidays.”

Ilias added that due to the delayed start of tourist ship movements this season, the island was facing a huge pressure in the peak season, as a lot of tourists were gathering on the island at a time.

According to experts, if this overload is not controlled, Saint Martin’s natural setting might become vulnerable. They advise that a ‘Tourism-carrying capacity’ policy should be strictly followed.

 But the government has not until now taken any initiative to regulate the number of tourists visiting the country’s only coral island.

 Last year, there was a demand for tourism control due to an environment and biodiversity crisis, but no steps have been taken yet to control the tourist flow.

 A hotel owner on Saint Martin’s Island told The Independent that they had not heard anything about any government initiative.

But he added that any effort to regulate the tourist flow would harm the tourism industry.

He said tourist mainly thronged the island for seven months in a year, while the peak season was from November to February.

Earlier, the environment department had been contemplating steps to control the number of tourists visiting the island. Mohammad Solaiman Haider, director (planning) of the Department of Environment (DoE) and in-charge of the island, told The Independent: “It would have been good if we could put a stop to tourism there, but that is not possible at the moment. So, the next best option is to limit tourism activities to protect the island. The government is working on this aspect.”

An increase in tourism could take its toll on Saint Martin’s, the only coral reef island of the country. Faced with an environmental crisis, efforts were made to construct brick structures on the initiative of the government.  However, the plan did not succeed.

 “The beauty of the island could diminish forever if steps are not taken immediately”, Prof. Syed Rashidul Hasan, tourism researcher and expert, told The Independent.