Urbanite invasion

After visiting Moinot Ghat, Monojit Saha writes about how the place is reeling from the effects of more tourists

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Moinot Ghat happens to be a new addition to the list of places urbanites can visit within the span of a day. It is a pretty good place to visit for groups seeking a ‘Cox’s Bazaar’ flavour without suffering all the consequences that come from visiting such a place.

Currently, I belong to a group of third year undergraduates who survive relentless classes. We often discuss group visits to Cox’s Bazaar or Saint Martin’s. We have a gender balance in the group of about eleven people and the social circumstances for ‘overnight visits’ are never obviously agreeable by our female counterparts.

So when one of our friends came up with the idea of travelling to a Cox’s Bazaar like spot that is only two hours drive from Gulistan, we thought he was on to something. But later, we realised that it was a good bet.

So off we went, nine of us on a Friday morning to Gulistan. At the bus stand, we heard bus conductors yell, ‘Chalu Mama chalu, Mini Cox’s Bazaar, Mini Cox’s Bazaar!!’ So we hopped on one of the buses which had a banner with the photo of a beach along with coconut tree and wooden umbrellas and chairs. It took about 2 hour 15 minutes to get there and the fare was Taka 90 per person.

After reaching the spot, all we could see was white sand (which is certainly not beach sand) and a few boats. We were looking for the beach and also the coconut trees! But we were disappointed as there was nothing of that sort in the main artificial ‘beach’.

On our right, we could see endless piles of sand and on the left, there were agricultural plots of land along with a few villages far off. After asking around for the location of the ‘beach’, we got to know that there was no actual beach. There is a Char-land that is about a kilometre off the main shore, and to get to that, we had to travel by boat.

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We had to put our bargaining skills to the test while fixing the fare of the boat. We decided to visit the Char for forty minutes and the total fare would be Taka 600 for the whole boat that will accommodate only the nine of us.

Our boat was mechanised. We spotted few speedboats although they did not look so safe.

It takes about twenty minutes to get to the Char. Personally, I was very excited as I thought that a very tranquil and pristine environment was awaiting us. It was just minutes before we reached the Char that my hope faded as I could see many people crowding about just one spot of the Char.

There is one corner of the char that is considered the safe zone, this is because the depth is less and there is no quick-sand zone there. The view from the Char is splendid to say the least. We could see large ships frequently on the Padma river from the char.

I got down and started to wander about the Char. It is surrounded by water from all sides. You can almost get a stranded island sort off feeling. My search for tranquility was soon disrupted by the presence of about 6-7 ‘Hajir biriyani’ packets. I presumed that a group must have brought them in and had lunch in the Char. I chose to ignore.

I noticed the wonderful patterns of sedimentation along the shore but soon I was distracted by the presence of discarded soft drink bottles on the shore. The shore has a very fragile and growing ecosystem as presence of primary succession (new plants growing on barren land) could be seen.

It was apparent that the successions of the char are facing a crisis and it was so apparent that I decided not to walk any further. I did not cover more than half the char. But I spotted everything from mobile back covers, toothbrushes to sand-filled shoes that the visitors had thrown away while visiting this spot.

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As an Environment major student, this was very painful for me. We regularly hear about the prospects of Eco-tourism in Bangladesh, but if this is the level of civic consciousness, then is Eco-tourism really possible in our country?

As I walked along, I realised why this Char is being called ‘Mini Cox’s Bazaar’. I dreaded that this char would see the same fate as the longest sea-beach on earth in the hands of us privileged few. While we are all happy about the jump-to-reach-the sky posed photos along the shore, or the couples taking the ‘take-me-to-Moinot’ photos, are we conscious about what we are leaving behind?

I am not going to talk about environmental consciousness. But is anti-littering not a civic etiquette? We have put our beautiful sea beach Cox’s Bazaar to the edge of destruction. Moinot Ghaat is not even an actual beach, and hence, destroying this ecosystem would not require hotels or motels to dump their wastes. The littering by the ‘beach-feel’ seeking urbanites is sufficient. It is time that we learn to value nature.

The writer is a student of University of Dhaka