Unregulated tourism in eco-sensitive coral island, Bangladesh

Despite categoric directions from the judiciary, unregulated tourism in the eco-sensitive and only coral island of Bangladesh is causing erosion, loss of biodiversity including 2 species of globally threatened turtles, scenic vistas, water contamination.


The island of St. Martins is a coral island located in the northeastern part of Bay of Bengal, about 9 km south of the tip of Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf peninsula forming the southernmost part of Bangladesh. Geographically, the Island is divided into three parts i.e. Narikel Jinjira on the northern side, Dakshinpara on the southern side and a narrow central belt Maddhyapara connecting the other two parts. In addition to the main island there are a number of tiny islets ranging from 100 to 500 sq. m that are locally known as Chheradia or Siradia meaning ‘separated island.’

See more...
Basic Data
NameUnregulated tourism in eco-sensitive coral island, Bangladesh
SiteTeknaf Upazilla, Cox's Bazar District, Chittagong Division
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Tourism Recreation
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific CommoditiesTourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe committee listed 33 hotels, motels and restaurants that have been constructed without EC and after the declaration of the Island as ECA. The report described the ecology of the Island as ‘threatened’ due to irresponsible activities of the 1000-1500 tourists that visited the Island daily in the lean period (2007). The report of the committee gave an alarming picture of contaminated water on the Island. Since the water level in the lsland is just below 8-10 feet, the sewage from the hotels reaching the said depth was found to contaminate the water table at a dangerous level. Subsequent to the report, the government decided to stop construction of structures in the Island and to take measures to protect the breeding ground of the turtles. Such decisions of the government were not implemented which is evident from a subsequent report of the Coastal and Wetland Biodiversity Management Project (CWBMP) of the Department of Environment, which recorded another 74 hotels, motels, restaurants in the Island. Newspaper reports of 2009 also suggested that the number of tourists that visited the Island raised up to 6000 per day. The 2011 Master Plan prepared for the Island also noted that everyday around 5000 tourists visited the Island while its total population stood only 6000 inhabitants.
Project Area (in hectares)342.5
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population6,000 (inhabitants of the island)
Start Date19/04/1999
Relevant government actorsMinistries of Environment and Forest; Civil Aviation and Tourism; Fisheries and Livestock; Shipping; Bangladesh Parjatan (Tourism) Corporation; Department of Environment; Deputy Commissioner; Superintendent of Police
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association; belabangla.org
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts
Otherdiseases due to contaminated water
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesRegulating tourism on the basis of carrying capacity of the Island;

Prohibiting concrete structures;

Prohibiting collection of corals;

Prohibiting disturbance with the turtle breeding grounds.

These alternatives are being proposed by BELA in line with the government regulations

Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The outcome of the campaign and court cases have been successful. Unfortunately, due to lack of implementation, the situation has not changed on the ground. Till the verdict and the legal prohibitions are enforced strictly and regular monitoring is ensured, the ultimate objective shall not be achieved and success cannot be claimed.
Sources and Materials

Article 21, 31 and 32 of the Constitution of People’s Republic of Bangladesh
[click to view]

Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995
[click to view]

Environment Conservation Rules, 1997
[click to view]

Notifications dated 19 April, 1999, 11 July 2002, 27 December, 2006 of the Ministry of Environment and Forest




Corals in peril -October 13, 2012

Global warming, unplanned tourism hit Saint Martin's Island hard

Pinaki Roy
[click to view]

Other Documents

Corals at peril Source: October 13, 2012
[click to view]

Luxury advertisement in the island
[click to view]

Saint Martin's Island
[click to view]

Other CommentsA Public Interest Litigation (Writ Petition No. 6848 of 2009) was filed seeking directions to check unregulated tourism in the Island and to forge special protective measures to safeguard the livelihood of the endangered turtles. Although the Court on 24 October, 2011 directed the government to conduct a survey within 60 days from the date of the receipt of this judgment for identifying and demolishing unauthorized buildings and to prevent erection of any future construction without environment clearance, such directions have gone unheeded. Although, following the judgment, carrying of construction materials to the Island remain restricted and require prior approval. Recent newspapers (December, 2016) have reported that since pronouncement of judgment in 2011, as many as 60 new private hotels have been constructed in the Island while few government agencies have also undertaken construction. The Department of Environment (DoE) has also prepared a list that shows 84 residential hotels in the Island. Drives of the DoE against unauthorized constructions are faced with resistances from local power bases like elected representatives and outsiders engaged in the tourism activities.

Meanwhile, the 2011 Master Plan has noted that the Island has lost roughly 25% of its coral reef in the past 7 (seven) years. The Plan has declared 5.29 acres of areas as commercial zone, 62.96 acres of lands of the Island as tourists facilities zone (intends to house tourists accommodation, associated services and opportunity to enjoy favour of local culture, heritage and lifestyle), and has earmarked 58.73 acres of land for turtle breeding Centre. The Master Plan has proposed to confine tourism to Narkel Jinjira, the northern part of the Island and has prohibited concrete construction and over-night stay in the Island. Tourism has therefore been prohibited in the Modhya Para (the middle part) and Chhera Dweep. On another alternate proposition, the Master Plan has recommended developing the nearby Shah Pari Dweep as tourist center (instead of developing St. Martins) from where tourists can visit the St. Martin Island in 25 minutes.
Meta Information
ContributorSyeda Rizwana Hasan, BELA, [email protected]
Last update06/02/2017