The government of Bangladesh will construct an ecotourism centre with all facilities at a cost of Tk 27.95 crore, In a bid to attract tourists to the world’s largest mangrove forest, The Sunderbans.
Four new tourist spots will also be developed to reduce the pressure on the existing seven spots under a project titled ‘expansion and development of eco-tourism facilities’ in the Sundarbans, sources in the forest department told The Independent on Thursday.
Under the project, initiatives will also be taken for the socio-economic development of the people dependent on the Sundarbans to reduce their dependence on forest resources, they said.
The forest department in December 2019 submitted the development project profile (DPP) in this regard to the Planning Commission for approval, sources said.
As per the DPP, one of the main objectives of the project is to protect the ecology and environment through creating awareness among the local people by expanding eco-friendly tourism facilities in the Sundarbans.
The project includes around 6,000 square feet trail, an interpretation and information centre, seven souvenir shops, seven fiber-body trawlers, three pontoons and gangways, three kilometers RCC roads, six public toilets, 8,000 cubic metres pond, a display map with shed, 30 RCC bench, 10 tourist directives, the sources said.
Besides, 600 people of the guide co-management committee including forests officers, employees and eco-tour operators will be trained under the project.
Once the project is approved by the Planning Commission, it will be implemented in both west and east Sundarbans by 2022, the sources said.
“We have seven eco-tourism spots—Karamjal, Harbaria, Katka, Kochikhali, Dublarchar, Hironpoint and Kalagachhia in the Sundarbans. We have planned to develop four more spots at Kalabogi, Alibanda, Shoronkhola and Andhermanik,” Md Moyeen Uddin Khan, Conservator of Forests of Khulna Circle, told this correspondent.
He said the four new spot would help reduce pressure on the existing eco-tourism spots of the Sundarbans.
There are about 34,000 members in village conservation teams under the management committee of the Sundarbans, Moyeen Uddin said, adding that the people’s dependency on the Sundarbans will decline through the expansion of eco-tourism centres and various development projects.
He hoped that the project will be implemented soon after getting approval of the Planning Commission though it is taking time due to the coronavirus pandemic across the world.
Over two lakh tourists visit the world’s largest mangrove forest every year, he said in reply to a query.
According to sources in the environment, forest and climate change ministry, the government earns about Tk 20 million from the Sundarbans tourism annually and the number of visitors increases by 30,000 every year.
Amid an increase in the number of visitors, complaints have also been made by the tourists and travel agencies over the insufficient travel arrangements to the Sundarbans.
There are also complaints about food and accommodation, inadequate security and supply of fresh water.
However, forest officials said the main objective is to conserve the forest, not to earn money.
Tourists are allowed in some eco-tourism centres keeping it mind that it doesn’t affect the Sundarbans and its ecology or disturb the wild animals, they added.