Lawachhara sees tourists double its capacity, biodiversity under threat
During the Eid holidays, Lawachhara National Park sees tourists double its capacity. This has been the trend for quite some years now, except for the hiatus due to the pandemic in the last two years. Although the increasing number of tourists has earned increased revenue, it is posing a serious threat to the biodiversity of the site with the endless noise and vehicles parking everywhere.
Md Shahidul Islam, range officer in Sreemangal, told this correspondent that there were at least 2,375 tourists and 34 vehicles on Eid day, and the total revenue out of this was Tk 1,01,788. On the second day of the holidays, the total number of tourists was 3,539, with 78 parked vehicles and total revenue of Tk 1,57,981.
The numbers continued to persist over the following days as well. A total of 3,021 tourists and 88 parked vehicles were on the site on the third day, yielding Tk 1,35,576 in revenue.
On the fourth day, there were 2,344 tourists and 63 parked vehicles, yielding a revenue of Tk 1,07,501.
On the fifth day, the total number of tourists was 1,934 and 39 parked vehicles.
Hotels, motels and resorts in all areas of the district, including Sreemangal, currently have zero vacancies, said Atiqur Rahman, inspector-in-charge of Lawachhara Tourist Police.
According to the divisional forest office, a study in 2012 found that the maximum capacity in Lawachhara National Park is 400 tourists per day.
Environmentalists said if the authorities cannot limit the number of tourists, the wildlife residing on the site will start to move out of Lawachhara due to all the noise pollution and ecosystem imbalance, which will create a huge risk to their lives.
"Free movement of people will harm the balance of eco-tourism and the environment. At the same time, noise pollution from vehicles carrying visitors to the protected forest creates panic and insecurity among the fauna," said Md Nurul Mohmain Milton, general secretary of Environmentalist Journalist Forum.
Meanwhile, it has already become difficult to spot wild animals inside the forest, due to the increasing number of tourists. Saddam Hosen, a student of Rajshahi University who came to Lawachhara with his friends, said they failed to spot any animal. "My assumption is they went even deeper into the forest due to all the noise and people," he said.
Muntasir Akash, assistant professor of zoology at Dhaka University, said, "There are arrangements for tourist management in different countries. A specified amount of tourists get the opportunity to travel every day. But there is no such model in Bangladesh. As a result, forests and wildlife are affected."
Contacted, Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, divisional forest officer in Sylhet, said, "We want to limit the number of tourists to protect the biodiversity of this forest. Besides, if there is an arrangement to sell tickets online, we can control the number of tourists on any given day."