Around the Sundarbans, one resort after another, AC generators are running

Resorts are building one after another in the environmentally threatened Sundarbans. By cutting forest trees and filling canals, Khulna and have built 14 resorts (holiday centers). Eight more are under construction. The generators are operating at full capacity to power the resorts. The sound system is playing. Most resorts have installed air conditioning (AC).

The Environment Conservation Act has declared an area of 10 km around the Sundarbans as an Environmentally Critical Area (ECA). The Environment Conservation Act completely prohibits the construction of any structure or activity that damages the natural features of these areas. These resorts built in disregard of the ban are damaging the forest environment. Water, noise, and soil pollution are increasing around the resorts. Forest animals have left the area.

When asked about this, Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmed, the former chief forester and former country director of IUCA, an alliance of international organizations on nature conservation, said, “The Sundarbans are already in danger due to various reasons. The development of industries surrounding the Sundarbans is leading to an increase in various types of hazards. If this illegal construction of resorts continues, then in the future, the condition of the Sundarbans will be like our Bhawal forest in Gazipur. We must close these resorts before proceeding with further construction.

Four times, the resort has grown.
In 2018, there were only 3 eco-cottages around the Sundarbans in the Dakop and Mongla areas of Khulna and Bagerhat. This situation persisted until 2021. The resort’s construction then began. Recently, two professors at Khulna University conducted a baseline study on community-based ecotourism around the Sundarbans.

According to the research, the number of resorts will reach 12 in 2023. In 2023, 74 rooms in 12 resorts could accommodate 260 tourists. This year, construction is underway on 8 additional cottages, totaling 58 rooms. Construction of 42 new rooms in seven old cottages is in progress. In total, by the end of 2024, the tourist capacity will be 560 in 20 cottages.

According to Iqbal Hossain, the director of the Khulna Environment Department, the government’s ECA policy prohibits any construction that harms the environment within 10 km of the Sundarbans. The construction of the cottages did not adhere to this policy. This is causing damage to the environment and the Sundarbans. We will make a decision with all parties involved.

Shyamnagar, Satkhira, has so far seen the construction of twoOn a few acres of land, Barsa Resort boasts a two-story building. building. Built in 2011, Barsa, a local non-governmental organization (NGO), owns the resort. It has its own auditorium, parking system, generator, air conditioning room, jetty, speedboat, etc.

The manager of the resort. Amanullah said that he does not think that there is any harm in using an AC or generator.
A resort named Tiger Point was built in Munshiganj, near the Sundarbans of Shyamnagar, with similar systems and infrastructure. Sushilan, a Satkhira-centric NGO, owns it. It was established in 2009. Sushilan is an executive engineer at the company. Nuruzzaman also believes that running an AC or generator does not harm the environment.

The cottage is near the river.
In the last few years, some cottages have been built right next to the Sundarbans in the Mongla, Dhangmari, and Shyamnagar areas of Dakop. Most are in Dhangmari.

On May 1, visitors to the West Dhangmari and Kailasganj areas observed a village on one side of the 50-meter-wide Dhangmari river and the Sundarbans on the other. On the banks of the river, every resort has a large ghatla. From there, the stairs descend into the river.

As we went along, we saw that seven cottages were under construction within a distance of about three kilometers. Along with the ongoing construction of houses, a large area near the river banks in the locality is being covered with walkways made of trees and timber. The construction of an eco-cottage named ‘Jungalbari’ is almost complete. The construction of another resort, named ‘Golkanon’, is also nearing completion. The construction process involves filling the swamp with sand.

On the surface, the embankment housed some structures, including the cottage’s cooking area. Large holes in the ground separate the storage of decomposable and non-perishable materials. The concerned persons said that every few days, they burn the waste, including plastic, in empty places.

Referring to the development of many resorts in this region, Dakop Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Joydev Chakraborty told Prothom Alo that no one has ever come to seek permission for the resort. He explained what to do in this regard at the district coordination meeting.
370 tourists visited the cottage in 2018, according to the calculation. In 2023, it will stand at 7,562 people.
Recently, cottage owners formed an organization called the ‘Sundarban Resort Owners Association’. The general secretary of that organization, Imnul Islam, told Prothom Alo, “It is not like we are able to comply properly.” Other challenges remain, including waste management. We want a policy. We do not want any damage to the Sundarbans.

Namely, Eco Cottage
Despite the name ‘community-based eco cottages’, the local community’s involvement is relatively low. Not all cottages have an eco cottage concept.

On the surface, it was seen that some big trees were being cut to make these cottages among the trees. Natural wetlands have also been destroyed. Several resorts have seen the use of concrete in walkways, toilets, and even rooms. As the resort grew, so did the number of trawlers to ferry tourists to and from the river, breaking the silence of the forest. Local residents said that the cottages use loud speakers, bright lights, generators, and air conditioners. The interior decoration of some cottages and advertisements on social media confirm the use of generators and air conditioners.
Dilip Kumar Mondal, a member of the Dhangmari local union council, said that the cottage owners are outsiders. However, because of the cottages, the land price has increased. People now have some job opportunities to pursue. They are buying local poultry and vegetables.
Talking to the concerned people, it is known that these cottages are made on a lease of land for 15-20 years from the local residents. The business starts only after the trade license and lease deed.