Sylhet Ratargul watchtower ‘risky’, closed to tourists | Daily Star
03:06 PM, September 20, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:34 PM, September 20, 2020

Sylhet Ratargul watchtower ‘risky’, closed to tourists

The watchtower overlooking the Ratargul Swamp Forest in Gowainghat upazila of Sylhet was closed to tourists from today, after it was declared to be "risky".

"It was risky for a long time. We earlier put up a signboard instructing that only 4-5 persons can climb up the watchtower at a time. Nearly 40-50 tourists climb up regularly, which poses serious threats," said Saad Uddin Ahmed, forester of Sylhet Forest Division.

"We've closed the watchtower for tourists from today until further notice," our Sylhet correspondent reports quoting the forest officer.

The Forest Department constructed the watchtower in 2014.

But after only six years, the watchtower is considered 'risky' and the Forest Department completely restricted climbing up to the tower for tourists visiting the country's most popular freshwater swamp forest.

Ratargul Swamp Forest is an area of 504.50 acres and was declared as a 'Reserve Forest' in 1973.

After a few media reports published in 2012, the forest department drew the attention of tourists to the area, and hundreds of people started visiting the forest to see the unique biodiversity.

Spending Taka 90.62 lakh, the department constructed the watchtower and several other structures in the forest to promote tourism.

The increasing number of tourists poses inevitable risk to the forest, prompting environmentalists to start protesting to protect biodiversity of the are, said Anis Mahmud, an organiser of Bhoomishontan Bangladesh, a rights organisation.

Anis added, "Since the very beginning of the Forest Department's planning, we protested their decision of constructing a watchtower in the forest without exploring opinions from experts."

"Now, the decision of barring the watchtower to tourists proved that their decision was completely wrong and meant for personal benefits," he said.

Forester Saad Uddin Ahmed said, "We will be seeking the attention of the higher authorities to look into the matter by consulting with engineers."

"Maybe after repair or reconstruction, it can be reopened for tourists," the forest official speculated.


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