Environment Desk : dhakamirror.com
Stakeholders have stressed that raising awareness alone is not enough to tackle plastic pollution on the country’s only coral island, Saint Martins, and are advocating for restrictions on plastic use and penalties for non-compliance.
At a panel discussion entitled “Plastic Free St Martins” on Wednesday, they called for strict limits on plastic consumption and called for a penalty for failing to comply with the restrictions.
In the discussion held as part of World Tourism Day 2023, Shiblul Azam Koreshi, president of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB), said, “The efforts aimed at increasing public awareness to combat plastic pollution have fallen short in effectively controlling this pressing issue. Both tourists and permanent residents on the island continue to use plastic, with inadequate measures in place for waste management. Although bins have been provided for separating plastic and compostable waste, there are no clear guidelines on who will remove them and where they will ultimately be disposed of. Besides, plastic pollution from fishing trawlers, including beverage bottles and chips packets, is further exacerbating the problem.”
Moreover, he pointed out a significant issue regarding the resorts on St Martin’s, with around 250 resorts operating without valid licences. He noted that residents in these resorts regularly use plastic, and there is a lack of proper directions on how to handle and store plastics. He stressed the need for specific policies and laws to be enforced to address these concerns effectively.
Tanvir Shakil Joy, a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, emphasised the urgent need for improved coordination in waste management. He stressed the importance of adopting a holistic approach and even suggested considering a ban on plastic in St Martin’s.
He pointed out that the government cannot sustain waste management solely through subsidies and highlighted the potential for profitability in waste collection and recycling. He also highlighted the importance of strengthening regulations related to waste management.
Cox’s Bazar-2 Member of Parliament (MP) Asheq Ullah Rafiq proposed the introduction of travel permits for St Martin’s every two or three years to alleviate the pressure on the island. He suggested that the government take the lead in establishing a landfill on the island to effectively manage waste. He also called for regulations mandating plastic product manufacturers to label their items for recycling and proper disposal.
“Sonadia Island should be developed as an alternative tourist destination to St Martin’s,” he added, acknowledging the challenges in curbing repeated trips to St Martin’s despite efforts from the Prime Minister’s Office.
During the opening ceremony, speaker Shirin Sharmin highlighted the importance of promoting tourism while preserving ecological balance. She emphasised showcasing the natural beauty of the country to attract tourists, with initiatives to make St Martin’s and Cox’s Bazar beaches plastic-free.
She also emphasized the importance of effective implementation of government plans and their direct impact on economic growth.