Shaheed Siraj Lake, widely known as Niladri Lake, in Sunamganj, has huge potential to become a tourist hub if authorities concerned take proper initiatives to develop required infrastructures and transport system.
Located on the west side of the village Chandpur of Tahirpur upazila, bordering the Indian State of Meghalaya, Niladri Lake attracts many nature-lovers who enjoy the beauty of its hilly surroundings and blue water.
Niladri Lake is near another popular tourist destination, Tanguar Haor, a nationally and internationally recognised unique wetland that was designated as the second Ramsar Site of Bangladesh on 10 July 2000.
The lake is 35 kilometres from the district town. Around 10 lakh people come here every year to enjoy the beauty of the lake and its surroundings but local people said if the new roads are constructed the number of tourists will increase many times.
"Hardship to reach the lake is the biggest obstacle in the way of developing tourism in this area. It is very important to build a road from Palash in Bishwambharpur to Shaheed Siraj Lake via the River Jadukata and from Tahirpur to Sulemanpur," said Kashmir Reza, president of a local NGO named Environment and Haor Development Organisation.
Hasnat Mia, a biker, said at present the roads are risky and unusable because of ankle-deep sand. Moreover, the roads are so narrow that no other vehicle but motorbikes and auto-rickshaws can run. Accidents occur frequently and vehicles get damaged easily too.
Sandy roads produce a cloud of dust which is a health hazard for people who regularly use the roads, he added.
Emphasising the construction of four kilometres road from the bank of the River Jadukata to Chanpur, Kashmir Reza said if the four-kilometre road is constructed, tourists will be able to enjoy the beauty of Shaheed Siraj Lake as well as the Jadukata, Shimul Bagan and Tanguar Haor.
About the issue, Tahirpur upazila Chairman Aftab Hossen said, "Considering the sufferings of people and the importance of the Niladri Lake for tourism, we are giving priority to road construction. We are also thinking of developing community tourism to attract more tourists, which will benefit locals."
Currently, there is no shop in the area. Only a handful of people sit near the Niladri lake with coconut and other fruits.
Reza said at present tourists bring their meals from outside. So, restaurants and houseboat business can flourish here. Local people should be encouraged so that they cooperate in developing tourism in the area.
Bangladesh Tourism Board Deputy Director Md Saiful Hassan said, "Considering the huge tourism potential, we are working to make the spots tourist-friendly. We have already conducted seminars with local representatives and administration in this regard and experts recommended developing community-based tourism in the area."
"We are giving priority to ensuring various facilities for tourists like restaurants, recreation facilities, picnic spots and hotels. We will visit the area soon to determine how to develop sustainable tourism," he added.