Published:  12:00 AM, 18 March 2017 Last Update: 01:37 AM, 18 March 2017

Steps to save Saint Martin's Island

Steps to save Saint Martin's Island Saint Martin's Island is in the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh about 10 km south-west of the southern tip of the mainland. -AA

The District Administration of Cox's Bazar is taking steps to save the coral Saint Martin's Island from the illegal occupiers and destroyers of the environment.  Sources said, the biodiversity of Bangladesh's lone coral island in Cox's Bazar is being destroyed by businesses related to tourism as thousands of tourists pouring in every day. Illegal infrastructures are also posing as threats to the environment there.

According to the sources, unplanned infrastructures have mushroomed in the island to meet the onrush of tourists. Researchers and environmentalists said high population density, huge illegal infrastructures built in an unplanned manner, destruction of plants and bushes, collection of sea shells and stones, unplanned development of tourism, visit by a huge number of tourists, and dumping of garbage were threatening the island.

Meanwhile, District Administration of Cox's Bazar issued written directives to take action against 106 illegal hotels at Saint Martin as per directives of the high court on Thursday (March 16). Chief of the tourism cell of District Administration of Cox's Bazar and Assistant Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Cox's Bazar Ehsanul Hyder Murad sent written directives on behalf of the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Cox's Bazar to the Department of Environment (DoE), Officer in Charge of Teknaf and Chairman of the coral island Saint Martin to take action against the 106 illegal hotels and save the environment of the island as per directives of the court.

Sources said, the DoE declared Saint Martin Island as "Ecologically Critical Area (ECA)" in 1995. The gadget of the government was published on June 29 in 1999 last in this regard. As a result, the government directed to stop all construction at Saint Martin's without approval of the concerned authority. As a result, there was no permission to construct any building and establishment there.

Meanwhile, the high court directed the district administration and other concerned authorities of the government to stop all constructions and evict establishments from the island in 2011 last in connection with a writ case filed by environmental organizations.

Following the directives of the government and order of the high court there is no option to construct any building and establishment at Saint Martin's.  But, presently, there are hundreds of buildings and establishments at the island. The District Administration of Cox's Bazar and other concerned authorities did not take any action against the illegal buildings and establishments there which is hampering the natural environment of the island and sustenance of the area.

Youth Environment Society (YES), an environmental organization, filed another writ before the High Court urging the directives to save the coral island Saint Martin and implement the previous directives of the court in this regard. Meanwhile, the YES also conducted a survey and their team found there are 106 hotels in the island.

Environmentalists said the stock of bio-diversity in the island has almost been exhausted. Saint Martin's is separated from Shah Parir Dwip in Teknaf upazila of the mainland by an 8-km channel. Around 7,500 people live in the 8-square-kilometre island.

A research by the DoE, with the assistance of the UNDP, said that the island has a number of eco-systems, coral rich areas, mangroves, lagoons and stony areas. The island is a safe haven to various species of fauna. Sources said, the beach of the island is also home to internationally endangered green turtles and olive turtles. The presence of 153 species of sea weeds, 66 species of coral, 187 species of oysters, 240 species of fish, 120 species of birds, 29 species of reptiles and 29 species of mammals were recorded at the coral island Saint Martin's in 2010.

The Chief Executive of YES M Ibrahim Khalil appealed to District Administration of Cox's Bazar to take steps to save the coral island from the illegal occupiers and destroyers of the environment. Following the appeal and directives of the high court, District Administration of Cox's Bazar is taking steps to save the island.

Mohammed Ali Hossain, the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Cox's Bazar said, "We have taken steps to save Saint Martin's Island. In the mean time, we have already directed the concerned authorities to take action as per directives of the High Court in this regard."

-Chittagong Bureau



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