THE Cox’s Bazar sea beach, the most frequented and well-known tourist location that drew 300,000 visitors in 2018, is reported to be choking with mountains of garbage and marine wastes. With no waste disposal in and around the beach, wastes of all sorts are haphazardly dumped everywhere on three popular points of the beach. Tourists often complain about floating plastic bottles and polythene packets in seawater. Each umbrella installed on the beach has small bins attached to them, but there are no garbage collectors. The umbrella owners, therefore, end up dumping the daily garbage near the beach at day’s end. The municipal corporation is reported to have dumped for years 120 tonnes of wastes on the banks of the River Bakkhali every day that has seriously polluted the seawater. A recent Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute study has found the presence of micro-plastic in fish and salt collected from the bay. This sorry state of waste management and water pollution in Cox’s Bazar is disconcerting given that the area was earlier declared an ecological critical zone. Environmental concerns aside, inadequate waste management would eventually impact the growth of tourism industry.
The municipal authorities are aware of the disorganised, haphazard garbage disposal but they are yet to create a dump. They are also aware that 300 waste collectors, 22 vans and 7 trucks are inadequate to manage waste that 600,000 people, a half of which are tourists, generate. Green campaigners and youth organisations have for long asked the authorities to attend to the pollution caused by disorganised waste disposal in the town. The demand has been ignored and no effective steps has been taken. In 2011, a court ordered the authorities to pull down all illegal structures on the beach to stop further pollution, but the directive has gone unheeded. The pollution will definitely impact the tourism industry, but the ecological cost would even be more damaging. Income from sales of shell ornaments and other decorative pieces is no longer that viable as shells have become scanty. A large majority of people, who depend on fishing for living, have also reported that water pollution along the shoreline has greatly affected them.
When it comes to coastal pollution, Cox’s Bazar is not the only affected area. There is the whole Cox’s Barzar-Teknaf peninsula, along with St Martins Island, Sonadia and Kuakata. Considering the economic and ecological cost of pollution, authorities in Cox’s Bazar and the tourism ministry must act immediately to stop further pollution and protect the marine resources.
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