Government officials and experts have called for immediate action to save the biodiversity and natural ecosystem of St Martin's Island.
"Controlling the number of tourists and introducing a zero waste management system can protect the Island," said Sulaiman Haider, director (planning) of the Department of Environment.
Sulaiman Haider presented the keynote paper at an online consultation workshop organised by the Department of Environment (DoE) on ecosystem restoration of St Martin's Island and other critical areas including the Sundarbans to observe the "International Day for Biological Diversity" on Saturday.
The DoE expressed concern for the marine ecosystem in coastal areas as well.
"Seaweed reduced, water sources for wildlife have reduced and coconut production has dropped significantly in St Martin's Island," said ASM Sarif, a senior scientific officer of Bangladesh Oceanographic Research Council.
Director of DoE Sulaiman Haider, said, "Uncontrolled tourism, illegal infrastructures like hotel, motel and resort, propeller of ships and vessel and anchors, marine litter, plastic and micro plastic are the threat for St Martin's Island. Industrial activities, navigation route, uncontrolled tourism, upstream withdrawal and siltation, salinity intrusion and climate changes are the threat for Sundarbans mangrove forest."
Expansion of industrial activity along the coast, ship breaking, plastic, micro plastic, land based pollution are identified as the threats to the marine ecosystem.
Chief guest at the event Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin said, "The small island (St Martin's Island) is very beautiful only for its biological diversity."
"Unplanned tourism on Saint Martin's Island in the last three years has heavily destroyed its ecology and biodiversity. We have taken various conservative steps to restore its beauty," he said.
Earlier he said staying at the Saint Martin's Island for two to three hours at a stretch is tough due to the odour.
"We invite law enforcers, local administrations to work hand to hand to restore the island," he urged.
He stressed on conservation and restoration not only on Saint Martin but also all over the country to ensure food security and economic development.
However, other ministries and departments are in charge of various activities on Saint Martin's Island. It needs help from the tourism ministry and ministry of shipping for restoration. The DoE proposed various steps needed to be taken and asked for a high level discussion to do so.
The DoE urged the authority to fix the number of tourist at the island and suggested to introduce tourist registration system and local level management committee formation as well as strict implementation of zero waste management by the local administration and coast guard.
"Ministries and local administration are not fully mainstreamed with the benefit of the ecosystem conservation and restoration which is the number one challenge to restore biodiversity. Private sector pays less attention to conservation and restoration of the environment when they set up establishments, which is one of the main challenges," the DoE opined.
Terrestrial protected area coverage reached 5.74% area of the country while the marine protected area is 4.73% of the country.
The Ministry of Environment and Forest declared 48 terrestrial protected areas so far and 13 Ecological Critical Area (ECA). The ministry also declared Swatch of no-Ground as the only marine protected area so far.
The Ministry of Environment and forest declared 48 terrestrial protected so far and 13 ECAs. The ministry also declared Swatch of no-Ground as the only marine protected area so far.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock has declared two protected areas – the middle ground and south patch of Bay of Bengal, and Nijhum Dwip.
The fisheries ministry has also established six hilsa sanctuaries. Hilsa contributes 1% of the country's GDP, according to the DoE document.
The Forest Department has so far raised more than 60,000 hector of participatory block plantation involving the local community. They established more than 200,000 hectare coastal green belts along the coast.
The DoE restored Nuniachara Mangrove patch, Swamp plantation in Hakaluki and Tanguar Haor, and fish sanctuaries in ECAs.
Senior officials from the environment ministry, DoE and several deputy commissioners spoke at the program.