Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit St. Martin every year to bathe, return with fond memories, leaving behind plastic bottles and polythene.
Those happy memories of travel fade away over time, but the plastic does not rot! The coral of St. Martin, the only coral island in the country, is now under threat due to the accumulation of discarded plastic.
According to a survey report published last year in the International Ocean Science Journal by a team of researchers from Dhaka University, the coral cover on the island decreased from 1.32 sq km to 0.39 sq km between 1970 and 2016. The number of coral species has come down from 141 to 40.
Employees of Facebook’s travel and tourism group Travelers of Bangladesh (TOB) have recently removed 640 kg of plastic and non-perishable waste from the island in a clean-up operation.
A floating barge is now being built with the 640 kg of plastic waste and other non-biodegradable products collected from St. Martin, the main purpose of which is to create awareness.
Niaz Morshed, group administrator of TOB, told bdnews24.com: We also saw a lot of plastic on the coral.
Plastic aggression in the coral kingdom
“Which were dropped five-seven years ago. As a result, the corals are dying. If the corals die like this, then the fish will not come here. As a result, human habitation on the island will be threatened. “
Fishing is the main occupation of a large part of the permanent residents of St. Martin. But they themselves are not aware of these issues. Therefore, Morshed thinks that the government as well as the volunteers should play an important role in this regard.
“Our only coral island, St. Martin, is slowly becoming polluted and heading for destruction,” he said. And in a few years we could lose this island. But no one is focusing on that. “
Increasing pressure, increasing danger
According to the Tourism Corporation, three to four thousand tourists visit Anagona every day during the tourist season from November to January to enjoy the beauty of this beautiful island.
Environmentalists say St. Martin’s is losing its balance due to the pressure of so many people; Biodiversity is being destroyed.
Even in the late nineties, the island did not receive more than two hundred tourists a year. More than two and a half million tourists now visit St. Martin’s every year as communication has become easier and other facilities have increased.
During this time the number of permanent residents of the island increased to about six thousand. The number of hotels, motels and cottages has increased seven times to over one hundred. The number of ships has increased due to the increase in the number of tourists.
The Department of the Environment says protecting St. Martin requires controlling the number of tourists and their behavior. Even travel to St. Martin should be stopped for a period of time.
Ziaul Haque Hawlader, manager of public relations and marketing department of Bangladesh Tourism Corporation, said that local people are also responsible for the pollution of plastic waste.
He told bdnews24.com: “Between November, December and January, there are between 3,000 and 4,000 tourists a day in St. Maarten. At this time four to five ships go to the island in a day.
Where is the danger of plastic waste?
Solomon Haider said there is a study on how much waste is deposited in St. Martin each year. It has been found that in urban areas a person produces an average of half a kg of waste per day. And in St. Martin, the average is about two and a half villages.
But the coral and nature are being harmed as no specific waste disposal site or modern waste management system has been developed for tourists on the island.
The official of the environment department said that the loss of plastic waste does not happen in one or two days. For many years plastic freezes into microplastics.
“It simply came to our notice then. It damages the coral. The risk increases when different marine fish eat them and when the fish is eaten by humans. ”
Solaiman Haider said travel to St. Maarten should be stopped at certain times of the year, saying the plastic waste would also endanger the livelihoods of local people who depend on marine fish.
He said that if the coral-dependent environment of St. Martin is destroyed, the supply of marine fish is likely to be lost. It will also cause economic loss.
“When an area’s ecosystem is on the verge of extinction in the presence of overcrowding, it is possible to take that ecosystem back to its previous state if human access to it is blocked for a few days.”
Solomon Haider said that so far tourists have been informed about the restrictions on traveling to St. Martin through various public notices.