After a long pause of more than six months, the Sundarbans has started receiving tourists as the government lifted the restrictions on visiting the mangrove forest on 1 November.
In November, 6,577 people visited the west Sundarbans in Khulna and Satkhira areas. The number of tourists in November 2019 was 2,656.
Although 4,098 of these 6,577 travellers were local tourists, four were foreigners and 2,475 were pilgrims.
Aminur Rahman Bulbul, officer of Nakipur food warehouse in Shyamnagar upazila of Satkhira who recently visited the Sundarbans, said nature there had worn a new look.
"I really enjoyed the trip. After a long time, travellers are rushing to the Sundarbans as the weather is also favourable," said Bulbul.
To Osman Gani, a resident of Gabura union in Shyamnagar upazila, the Sundarbans seemed to have regained its youth. "Tourists throw different types of waste while travelling through the Sundarbans. But pollution in the forest has reduced significantly as tourists could not go there for a long time," he said.
Abul Hasan, forest officer of Satkhira Range is west Sundarbans, said tourists are entering the Sundarbans through the Kalagachhi and Dobeki points in Shyamnagar upazila of Satkhira.
The health rules announced by the government are being followed and wearing masks is mandatory for the visitors, said the forest officer.
In the fiscal 2019-20, a total of 65,142 tourists visited the west Sundarbans in Khulna and Satkhira, bringing in revenues worth Tk82.8 lakh, according to the Khulna Divisional Forest Office.
In November this year, the Forest Department collected Tk12.20 lakh in revenues.
The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced the revenue collection from Sundarbans tourism this year as the forest was closed for the first four months of the current fiscal year.
Abu Naser Mohammad Mohsin, Khulna divisional forest officer, said, "The total number of tourists in the Sundarbans is much lower in the 2020-21 fiscal year than that of previous years. A record number of tourists visited the forest last fiscal year.
"However, it is more likely that there will not be so many tourists in the current fiscal year due to Covid-19 pandemic. If the number of tourists reduces, the revenue collection will definitely decrease."
Bhobotosh Kumar Mondol, president of Burigoalini union truck owners association in Satkhira's Shyamnagar upazila, said there are 250 trawlers for carrying tourists to the Sundarbans.
Livelihood of around 500 families depends on tourists visiting the forest. These people had faced financial crises due to the seven-month long restriction on travel, said Bhobotosh.