The country’s south-western district Satkhira, having a big part of the Sundarbans on its south, awaits infrastructural development to promote tourism
The district of Satkhira is endowed with one of the biggest world heritage sites, the Sundarbans. The tourist sites that developed centring this mangrove forest attract a commendable number of tourists round the year. Besides that, there are different historic sites and installations in Satkhira.
Tourists are of the opinion that if necessary infrastructure was developed, the sites would attract more tourists.
Comprising a total area of 10,000 square kilometres; 6,017sq km area of the forest falls in Bangladesh, the rest belongs to neighbouring India.
The Sundarbans inside Bangladesh is divided into east and west divisions. Bagerhat and Barishal are in the East Forest Division while Khulna and Satkhira are in the West Forest Division.
About one-third of 3858.33sq km of Satkhira district is covered by the Sundarbans forest. The mangrove forest is visible to the travellers from roads of Satkhira.
Tourists flock to the Sundarbans mainly for two reasons – bio-diversity and natural beauty. Various types of animals like the Royal Bengal Tiger, crocodiles, monkeys and deer, and a huge assortment of birds are coupled with deep silence of the forest which allure people to visit.
To allocate and serve the increasing crowd, a number of tourist centres has sprung up centring the Sundarbans.
Among those Kalagachhia Eco-tourism centre, Dobeki Eco-tourism centre, Caram Mura Mangrove village, Caram Mura birdwatch centre, Akashlina Eco-tourism centre, Mandarbaria sea beach, villages, boat sailing sites, Sialkuni afforestation, Koikhali border and the confluence of five rivers are notable.
Abdullah Al-Mahfuz, a native of Satkhira, has visited the Sundarbans seven times since 2015. In love with the forest's heaven of nature, he has visited many entrancing sites like Kotka, Kachikhali, Kalirchar, Dublarchar, Dimerchar, Harbaria, Mandarbaria, Bangabandhu Dwip. Mahfuz says, "I have seen animals and birds that I will not encounter anywhere else in the country. I have seen a python, deer, pig, different types of birds, dolphin, thousands of monkeys and red crabs.
However, I have not yet seen a tiger." He suggested, "If the government increases facilities and make this place more tourist-friendly, more people like me would frequent the forest."
Pointing out that there is a latent potential for the development of a significant Sandarbans-based tourism industry, Mahfuz shed light on some of the hindrances on the way of a smooth tourism business in the area.
Though fishing in the Sundarbans is banned, he has seen use of poison for fishing which affects the overall health of the forest.
Another obstacle is that, though the tourists can reach the sites by trawler, there is no arrangement for landing there. The tourists have to get down in the mud or water for going to the tourist spots.
Most importantly, despite existing laws on animal protection which bar people from hunting deer and other animals and birds, fishermen of the Sundarbans have kept the practice alive whenever the opportunity comes – endangering the species and harming the bio-diversity of the forest as a result.
Nature-enthusiasts Al-Amin Hossain and Shanto from Satkhira visited the forest multiple times. They also echoed Mahfuz's concerns.
Upon asked whether there is any special plan for the tourists in the Sundarbans, forest official Bashirul Al-Mamun of the Sundarbans West Division said, "A project has been prepared for infrastructure development in the Sundarbans and it has been sent to the Ministry of Planning awaiting their approval." The forest spoke with hope, "If this project is approved, infrastructural development inside the Sundarbans will increase. Besides, two new tourist spots will be built at
Kolabogi and Shekhertek areas in the West Forest Division." According to Al-Mamun, these changes, if made, will attract more tourists in near future.
He emphasised, if anyone provides them with concrete information of using poison for fishing or hunting deer, immediate and strict actions will be taken.
Moinuddin Khan, forest conservator of Khulna Circle, said, "The Sundarbans is a world heritage site. Already two projects have been taken to protect the bio-diversity and increase the natural beauty of the Sundarbans. One of the projects is for expansion of environment-friendly tourism and another for saving the Sundarbans."
Khan apprised that about 35 lakh people in and around the mangrove forest are dependent on the Sundarbans. "Save the Sundarbans" project will work for improving the lives and livelihood of these people so that they do not harm the Sundarbans for earning their livelihood, and also the natural beauty is not destroyed.
He said, "The project for expansion of environment-friendly tourism in the Sundarbans includes infrastructural development and setting up of new tourism centres. Of those two will be set up under the West Forest Division and two in the East Forest Division. Besides, prevention of smuggling of wildlife, development of telecommunication and expansion of eco-tourism will be done under this project." Though at present there is no eco-tourism for the tourists in the Sundarbans, they are also working on it.
Earning crores in revenue, forest officials are positive about an upgraded tourism industry in the Sundarbans.