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A shameful reality

  • Published at 11:57 pm July 8th, 2019

Bangladeshis have consistently failed to treat its tourist destinations with care and respect

The news about the possibility that the Sundarbans could be getting into the list of endangered heritage sites really struck me. As if bringing the Bengal tiger to the brink of extinction wasn’t enough, now the largest mangrove forest in the world is under threat. 

We have not only abused our resources all these years but are now attempting to erase landmarks from the world map. The few tourist destinations that we have are falling prey to our greed and selfish mindset.

World Bank states that Bangladesh is the least “touristy” destination in the world. Tourism is still an unexplored sector in the country. This makes travelling around Bangladesh affordable since we are yet to get an annual visitor trend. What we fail to realize is that tourism can be a major contributor in the development of any country. Those who have understood it, for example our neighbours, have made full utilization of whatever they have. 

Tourists from all over the world visit these places to learn about the culture, food, and to make memories. The host country has everything to offer to them, even a souvenir that they can take back. However, in our country, we lack the very basic etiquette of keeping these spots clean.

The “Beautiful Bangladesh” campaign launched by Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation might have dragged a few, but coming here must’ve given them a different picture: Littering, public urination, vandalism of ancient monuments and palaces, spitting, and a general lack of hygiene are commonplace at our tourist spots. 

Let’s take Cox’s Bazar beach as an example.

Just thinking of it reminds me of heaps of trash lying here and there, of plastic bags in the water, and the overcrowding. But this is not what a beach is supposed to give an impression of.

Consider a Mughal Empire ruin in Dhaka, the Lalbagh Fort. On the walls of the entrance, certain “romantic” people have left love notes. The Ahsan Manzil front yard is always filled with peanut shells and paper bags.

Being a frequent traveller I have been to many tourist spots around Bangladesh. Cheap travels mean more locals flocking around these places.

While in Sajek Valley, I found trash on the beautiful roads built by the army. People go on the hill top and leave empty packets and cigarette butts.

I have seen Lalakhal, Sylhet being polluted with plastic bottles and engine fuel. Trekkers leave their clothes on the Risang Waterfalls in Khagrachhari.

When we travel in our own country, we somehow feel that we are entitled to use the place any way we want to.

What image of the country are we going to present in front of foreign travellers who wish to ever visit us? We have reached rock bottom in offering them anything presentable.

It is about time we said enough is enough. I say, impose a strict rule so that people who abuse tourist destinations limit their deeds to their own homes. Littering is wrong as it is, but grave when done at landmark places. 

Article 21 of our constitution confers the duty upon every citizen to maintain discipline and to protect public property. Hence, throwing your trash here and there may be considered a violation of the Constitution itself. But it is unfortunate that none of us work to uphold the sanctity of it. 

A specific law, namely a “tourist destination protection act” is what we need right now. Our concerned authorities, the Tourism Developers Association of Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation must work hand in hand with the government to develop such a law. 

World Tourism Day will come and go, but the work in protecting our assets is an everyday responsibility. If we do not act now, the day is not far when the only landmark that will represent Bangladesh is a trash heap. 

Aiman R Khan is an Advocate, Dhaka Judge Court.