The forested areas inside the national park adjacent to the Kuakata beach are disappearing over time as sand is continuously being eroded by waves, eventually uprooting and sweeping away trees.
The water level has risen due to the impact of climate change and sedimentation on the sea-bed. As such tidal surges often flood the beach. The recent Cyclone Amphan also washed away hundreds of trees.
Coconut and palm plantations, and tamarisk garden near the Kuakata beach, which attract many tourists, are now under much wear and tear. The mangrove forest too is gradually disappearing, Patuakhali Forest Department sources said.
In 2005, the government declared an area of 5,661 hectares as national park to attract tourists. To make it even more tourist-friendly, a tamarisk garden was established on 10,000 hectares of land between 2007 and 2008. And then last year again, tamarisk garden was established on 40 hectares of land in Gangamati area.
Mahipur Range Officer of the Forest Department Abul Kalam Azad said new gardens were later developed in the national park area adjacent to Kuakata beach from 2010 to 2012. Last year, tamarisk garden was developed on another 40 hectares of land in Gangamati area.
But each year, at least 50 hectares of forest land are being destroyed every year by sea waves and erosion. Thus, in the last five years, about 250 hectares of forest land have been lost to the sea. Thousands of trees have also been uprooted due to Cyclone Amphan and high tide for five days since August 19 this year, the official said.
"Once there were rows and rows of trees in the coconut and palm orchards adjacent to Kuakata beach. This made the beach more attractive to tourists. But the beach has collapsed and these trees have been washed away by waves," said Ruman Imtiaz Tushar, managing director of Kuakata Tourist Centre.
The continuous erosion has shrunk the width of the 18-kilometre long sea beach. During high tide, tourists are unable to walk on the beach, said Kuakata Municipality Mayor Barek Mollah, adding that spots of interest in Kuakata are being washed away.
"Sustainable measures must be taken to prevent erosion. Otherwise, Kuakata beach will lose its attraction to tourists," he added.
Patuakhali Divisional Forest Officer Aminul Islam said the damage to the beach is such that no infrastructure development could be done in the area adjacent to Kuakata. However, new gardens are being planted in Gangamati and Kawar Char areas. At least 20,000 palm trees have been planted in addition to mangroves to tolerate salt and prevent tidal surges, he added.
Contacted, Khan Mohammad Waliuzzaman, executive engineer for Water Development Board, said, "Development Project Proposal (DPP) has been prepared for the permanent protection and development of Kuakata beach. The DPP will be sent to the ministry concerned. It will be an effective development project including protection of Kuakata beach."