Marine drive dream project
Should not cause natural destruction
Mir Mosharref Hossain wrights for Observer
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the dream project of 80km Cox's Bazar - Teknaf Marine Drive on May 6, 2017. This project was much in the news due to its implication in transforming the whole zone into a tourist attraction. It has significantly improved the communication from Cox's Bazar to Teknaf and will create several small tourist spots alongside this road.
Cox's Bazar, being the longest sea beach of the world, has already been one of the greatest tourist spots of the world. This marine drive will drastically change the lives around this new road in the upcoming years. Of course, this is one of the success stories of the current government but if we are not alert of some issues from the very beginning, this success can be stained in no time.
We can comprehensively expect that, several tourist spots and accommodation related construction will start soon alongside this new marine drive. We have already seen some movements in this regard from private investors.
Many people have their lands alongside this road which they have inherited or purchased many years back but did not create any establishment till now. But as this road is now built, they are expected not to leave these lands empty anymore. Houses, hotels, restaurants and recreation centres will be built on these lands. That will draw people moving towards those establishments specially the tourists. Several locals will also start permanently living alongside this marine drive also. This increased pressure from the travelling and living people will require extensive waste management plan.
We have seen that, the river Buriganga surrounding Dhaka city have been damaged permanently due to heavy dumping of wastes for years. The people living around this river have used the water illegally for dumping wastes. Now the river has lost its charm. The water is severely polluted and cannot be used for any purpose. It has even become black in colour due to dumping of industrial and domestic dumping of wastes.
Consider the example of recently made Hatirjheel project which is built on a canal. Everyday thousands of people visit Hatirjheel with their friends and families. They generate huge amount of wastes. Though the government has taken several steps for waste management for this project, more awareness should be created among the visitors and more involvement of the government is required to keep the environment of Hatirjheel in the near future.
During the last two decades, Cox's Bazar has changed a lot in nature; earlier it used to be a calm and quite sleepy beach where mostly domestic tourists came to visit for holidays to avoid the chaotic environment of the cities they are living in. But starting from the mid-'90s, thousands of hotels, apartment blocks and restaurants were built alongside the coast of Cox's Bazar.
There are hundreds of shops of toys, sea shells, cloths and many other things almost on the beach. Huge wastes are being created by those establishments. Many of these establishments are illegal. In spite of a court order few years back, these establishments were not removed. The city along the beach has been developed completely unplanned. These establishments have accommodated thousands of people but also deterred the quality of sea water alongside the coast. We have often heard tourists complaining about the sea water being dirty but we are actually in fault of that.
The coastal area or the sea beach of Cox's Bazar has some distinct features. Pristine sandy beaches, coconut palm, sunshine and tropical weather adds to the beauty of the longest uninterrupted sea beach of the world.
The beach sand is sloppy like a hill which contributes towards less strong tides and lesser erosion of the beach coast. The hills not distant from the sea water are surrounding the beach all around. Overall the environment and nature lies at its best in Cox's Bazar. The newly inaugurated marine drive will connect till Teknaf creating new tourist attraction at Ukhia, Chokoria and Teknaf itself where Naf River joins the water of the Bay of Bengal. But this requires higher focus in these new zones and in Cox's Bazar sea beach as well.
It is expected that with this new marine drive, the government will eyen on USD 5bn revenue from the domestic and foreign tourists in the next 5 years. That means millions of tourists will visit the areas adjacent to the marine drive. Though we welcome the tourists to visit our pride the longest sea beach of the world, huge wastes will be created by these tourists including their thrown away objects like; polythene bags, food packs, drinking bottles, low scale and high scale human wastes etc. There must be a compact plan to collect and recycle these wastes.
Naturally, it is very difficult to implement a waste management plan around the marine drive as it is surrounded by sea at one side and by hill on the other side. The wastes cannot be deposited at the hilly areas. The other option is to dump the waste in the sea. This option can be highly threatening to the environment.
First of all, the aquatic life will be interrupted meaning the fishes, corals and snails will be threatened. Secondly, the water along the shore will be polluted. And lastly, the beach sands will lose its quality and structure resulting in the erosion of the beach in the long run.
The huge waste generated by human visiting and living along the marine drive will cause a severe problem to the idea of protecting the nature in Cox's Bazar. In addition to that, the new tourist zones alongside the marine drive like; at Chokoria needs to be brought under proper supervision for waste management. We must be careful of this issue from the very beginning.
We have seen in countries like Saudi Arabia or Italy or in many other developed countries that the government agencies collect the waste by large trucks everyday. There are thousands of cleaners also who cleans the street throughout the day and night as soon as any waste is thrown on the streets. These cleaners then stores those wastes in the dustbins and later the trucks come to collect those wastes.
The trucks suck off the waste from the designated dustbins and dumps it to a specific place and later it is recycled. Many countries, specially developed ones do the same. They do not allow any waste to be gathered in any open place. We must take learning from countries like Saudi Arabia, Italy, France and others to adopt an effective waste management policy.
Cox's Bazar is the most important tourist destination of Bangladesh and holds high attraction to the tourists all around the world. There are several plans to make this a place of attraction for the nature-seekers. Besides that, several other tourist zones are going to be created also. Of course, we must appreciate the government's approach for the development of tourism in that area. But that must not come at the cost of the nature.
We have to protect the nature at Cox's Bazar-Teknaf area from any possibilities of deterring the natural conditions. A comprehensive plan should be in action from the very beginning of the usage of the 80km marine drive.
Here we must say that, we are not suggesting any approach of dumping the waste or implementing a recycling plant in the nearby area. We are basically suggesting three simple things. One is to restrict construction of unplanned hotels, restaurants, houses or shopping malls at the marine drive adjacent area. It should be prohibited right from now. Second is managing and putting away the waste from this area and to dump and recycle that in a separate area. And lastly, to clean the area everyday if not every hour to remove the thrown objects like; polythene bags, food packs and drinking bottles etc.
Rather than having fancy plans for the waste management, if we simply apply these three things, we can hope that, the 80km Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive will be really beneficiary for us. Other than that, we will soon lead to the destruction of the nature in the beach or hills surrounding areas -- the dirty water in the coast, no murmuring sounds of the coconut palm leaves, irritating smell around the beach and chaotic landscape beside the marine drive. We cannot even dream of that happening to our beloved Cox's Bazar.
We would like to draw the attention of the PM Sheikh Hasina on these issues with the hope that the relevant authorities take necessary steps to keep Cox's Bazar clean and natural for which the tourists travel from distance. We are thankful for the PM's futuristic steps to develop Cox's Bazar-Teknaf into a greater tourist attraction but we also hope a dream project would not cause natural destruction.
The author is the Chairman of Mohammadi Group of Companies Ltd & Director of The Daily Observer