The Forest Department has taken a move to impose a ban on tourism in the Sundabans from June to August considering the three months as a breeding period of wild animals.
A proposal in this regard has already been sent to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for its approval.
Md Bashirul AL Mamun, divisional forest officer of West Sundarbans division, said Sundarbans Eco Tourism Extension and Development project has been sent to the ministry. “Once approved by Ecnec after scrutiny, the Forest Department will take steps to implement it,” he added.
However, environmentalists, experts and different tour associations are opposing the plan of the Forest Department saying that the move was taken without any consultation with experts and conducting any research.
Sources at the Forest Department said there 3,180 square kilometers of areas in the Sundarbans have already been declared sanctuary as the areas are the habitats of Bengal tigers.
The number of tiger is decreasing in the areas of Shibsa and Pashur rivers and their movement in Arua, Shibsa, Dobeki, Kochikata and Sheula rivers have also declined. Besides, the movement of hundreds of vessels every day has become a threat to free movement of tigers.
Contacted, Prof Dr Md Wasiul Islam of Forestry and Wood Technology Discipline of Khulna University, said the breeding of wild animals is a sensitive matter. “So, it won’t be wise to take any decision without correct information and data,” he said.
Prof Wasiul Islam said based on what they are taking steps to ban tourism for three months if there is no research assessing the impacts of tourists on breeding of wild animals.
“Besides, the breeding time of all the animals is not the same. The ban will be effective for three months. What type of steps they will take in the rest of the year for smooth breeding of animals?” he questioned.
Prof Nazmus Sadat of the same department of Khulna University said the Forest Department is taking steps to ban tourism due to sound pollution caused by the presence of tourists. But they could not take any step against the plying of commercial vessels in the rivers of the Sundarbans which is causing huge sound pollution, he added.
He said the department should think about an alternative instead of banning tourism.
Prof Dr Salma Begum, of the Environment Science Department of the university, said snails, oysters and crabs are very important for the existence of thee Sundarbans as they play a vital role in ecosystem. “Winter is the breeding time for crabs, but the Sunbarbans authorities give permission to collect crabs during this season,” she said.
Environment activist Shah Mamunur Rahman said monsoon is the breeding time of a very few animals among 375 species of the Sundarbans. “Smugglers find monsoon as a suitable time for wildlife smuggling.”
President of Tourist Guide Association MM Islam Bulu and Director of Tour Operators’ Association of Bangladesh Taslim Islam Shovon said it will be imprudent to ban tourism instead of stopping plying of vessels through the forest round the year.
General Secretary of Tour Operators Association of Sundarbans Md Rafiqul Islam said the decision of tourism ban for three months will hamper the potential of tourism growth in the mangrove forest.
According to information provided by its president Kochi Jamaddar, the highest number of tourists visited the world’s largest mangrove forest in 2017-18 since the permission of tourism in the Sundarbans in 1987.