Coral Reef- Tropical Rainforest of Oceans:
St Martin's, the only coral island of Bangladesh prey to mindless development

st. martin st. martin

  • St. Martin's Island, Bangladesh
  • Turtle in St. Martin


    1. Introduction
    2. St. Martin - Coral Island
    3. Useful Medical Application
    4. Ecology and marine life seriously imperilled
    5. Most coral reefs under threat
    6. References

    1. Introduction

    Coral reefs are among the world’s most spectacular underwater environments. Like rainforests, these natural wonders are complex ecosystems supporting a remarkable diversity of life. Although coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, they are home to over 93,000 plant and animal species, and sustain more than 35% of marine species in shallow ocean waters.

    Geological indications suggest that the St Martin's Island is still being raised. This trend does not favour the development of human infrastructures in the island, which began to rise.

    A healthy coral reef will act as a sink for carbon dioxide the largest produced green house gas. The corals normal metabolic activities lock up this carbon dioxide as calcium carbonate which is used in growth. As long as the corals are alive and the reef is healthy, this carbon dioxide is kept within the corals skeleton and not in the atmosphere where it would form clouds and add to global warming. Other fauna on the reef also lock up carbon dioxide during their metabolic activities.

    For many coastal areas, coral reefs provide the main barrier against the worst ravages of storms, hurricanes and typhoons. The reefs break the power of the waves and prevent coastal erosion, flooding, and loss of property on the shore. This function alone is probably worth billions of dollars a year in terms of money saved in insurance costs and need to build costly coastal defences, not to mention the reduced human cost of destruction and displacement. Tourist income Tourism revenues generated by coral reefs are also significant.

    For example, according to a report by the Key West chamber of commerce, tourists visiting the Florida Keys generate at least US3 billion dollars in annual income, and the Great Barrier Reef well over US1 billion dollars per year. Reefs are the nurseries for about a quarter of the ocean's fish, and thus provide revenue for local communities and national and international fishing fleets. By helping to maintain healthy fish stocks, reefs also provide food security for thousands of coastal communities which depend almost entirely on fish for protein.

    We can also expect coral reef species to contribute to future medical advances. Although scientists have only just begun to understand how reefs can contribute to medicine, already coral reef organisms are being used in treatments for diseases like cancer and HIV. Just as with tropical forests, we may continue to find the answers to medical problems in the coral reefs - so long as we can keep them healthy.
    Coral reefs have an intrinsic value that is difficult to measure but irreplaceable to many.

    According to The United Nations, in the last four years ten percent of the world's reefs have died, and nearly a quarter are sick and suffering. More than half of the living reefs are seriously threatened, and scientists estimate that if today's trends continue mankind will cause the irreversible loss of reef formations and related fish species within 40 years.

  • Coral reefs are home to more than 25 percent of all marine life - yet occupy less than one percent of the ocean floors.
  • Coral reefs have been around 100 million years and are the largest living structures on earth. Australia's Great Barrier Reef is more than 2,000 km long and can be seen from outer space.
  • Scientists have found as many as 3,000 different species living on one reef in Indonesia.
  • Coral reefs protect shorelines from erosion and storm damage. Without reefs, many islands, in the Banda Sea for example, and low lying mainland would be underwater.
  • Coral reefs are a tremendous medical resource, providing chemical compounds used in antihistamines, antibiotics and other medications for illnesses ranging from asthma to leukaemia and heart disease. Indeed, more than half of all new cancer drug research focuses on marine organisms.
  • More than 350 million people worldwide depend on corals for food and survival.
  • Corals are animals-not rocks or plants-and they come in two types, hard and soft.

  • Back to Content

    2. St. Martin - Coral Island

    St. Martin island locally known as Narikel Jingira, lies about six miles off from mainland of Bangladesh towards south and lies between the north latitude 20°34'- 20°39' and the east longitude 92°18'-92°21'.
    The island is encirled by a cluster of small islands. The sedimentary succession of the island consists of calcareous to fossiliferous sandstone, coral clusters, cocoina limestone and dune sandstone aging from Miocene (24 Ma) to Recent. There are two well defined lagoons on the island. Accumulation of nutrients in the the sheltered back-reef lagoons favours the growth of seagrasses, which inturn makes favourable environment for the growth of invertebrates and fish. The island is a few kilometers from the mainland Teknaf and adjoining Arakan hill ranges of Burma (Myanmar), where mangrove forests and Naf river supply important nutrients to the sea, attribute to one of the major fish-grounds of Bangladesh.

    ST. Martin's Island is the only island of corals and blue sea in Bangladesh. We know this place as a “Nil shomudrer desh”. Teknaf to St. Martin's Island takes around 3 hours.

    St. martin island

    St. Martin's is the most beautiful and peaceful island where we can find live corals. The total area is about 15-16 km. Most of the people are Muslims. Most of island's 5500 inhabitants live primarily from fishing, and between October and April fishermen and women from neighboring areas bring their catch to the island's temporary wholesale market. A British saint, Captain Martin discovered this island. Since then the island has been known as Saint Martin's Island. Now this island is one of the most attractive and beautiful places for tourists.

    This is the only coral island of the country, surrounded by submerged coral reef. There is rarely any study on complex dynamics of reef ecosystem of St. Martin island. Fata (1979), University of Dhaka, believes that there is a submerged reef on the south and south-east of St. Martin's island and presumed that this reef is the western extension of the Malaysian Sea Coast.

    The exposed rocks in the island range from from Lower Miocene to Recent:

    Age Lithology
    Recent to sub-recent Dune sand, beach sand, coquina, coral reef and algal flat;
    Pleistocene Coquina bed
    Late Miocene to Pliocene(?) Shale

    The requsite environment for coral formations is warmth, light, and water movement. Coral reefs can be termed as the marine versions of tropical rainforests, which are being decimated faster than any other marine resource. If the present conditions continue, it is possible that they are extinguished mor rapidly than rainforests. The mangrove forests in the mainland and along the Naf river delta are being intensively removed for timber and to make more room for agricultural land with the increase of population and arrival of immigrants from Burma (Myanmar), as a result erosion flashed off more sediments to the coastal water. The coral colonies along St. Martin islands are threatented by clastic sedimentation. Reef-building coral animals depend on sunlight, and if the water become murky due to suspended sediments, they cannot reproduce. Sedimentation of reefs can transform thriving communities into dead one. The increased runoff nutrients from the mainland poison corals and reduce their ability to compete with other organisms, such as algae.

    In terms of materials most coral reefs may be considered closed system, as they have devised sophiscated recycling pathways to overcome nutrient deficienies, so that any trapped nutrients are re-used and not exported. The active coral community supplies both nutrients and sediments to the remainder of the reef. Fig shows mechanisms of nutrient and organic production of a coral reef. The coral reefs are highly productive ecosystem because of their efficient biological recycling system and retention of nutrients. R. Salam, Project leader of IUCN's coastal-zone mangement programme in Oman, describes the reamkable recycling systems of coral reef:

    Resident reef fishes, which forage during the day, share their living quarters with other, nocturnal species. While the dilurnal (daytime) fishes are feeding, their living space is occupied by fish which is actively at night. During night the roles are reversed. This sharing of quarters allows a reef to shelter two separate populations of fish. It has been suggested that reefs can support 5-15 times the number of fish found in the North Atlantic..... The high species diversity on coral reef gives rise to another, often over-looked, benefit: their potential as sources for new drugs.

    Back to Content

    3. Useful Medical Application

    Between 40 and 50 percent of all drugs currently in use, including many of the anti-tumor and anti-infective agents introduced during the 1980s and 1990s, have their origins in natural products. Most of these were derived from terrestrial plants, animals, and microorganisms, but marine biotechnology is rapidly expanding. After all, 80 percent of all life forms on Earth are present only in the oceans. Unique medicinal properties of coral reef organisms were recognized by Eastern cultures as early as the 14th century, and some species continue to be in high demand for traditional medicines. In China, Japan, and Taiwan, tonics and medicines derived from seahorse extracts are used to treat a wide range of ailments, including sexual disorders, respiratory and circulatory problems, kidney and liver diseases, throat infections, skin ailments, and pain.

    Coral reefs have often been called the medicine cabinets of the sea. Reefs hold the possibility of cures for cancer, human bacterial infections, arthritis, viruses and other diseases. Out of a possible nine million reef species only one million have actually been identified. There are many drugs that have already been developed from coral reefs one of the most famous is AZT, which is a treatment that is used for people infected with HIV. The AZT is based on chemicals that come from a Caribbean reef sponge. Other compounds that have been extracted from coral reefs have been used as treatments for cardiovascular diseases, ulcers, leukemia and skin cancer. Coral has even been used as a bone grafting material. Surprisingly marine organisms are the focus of more than half of all the new cancer drug research.

    Researchers have discovered that number of these highly active compounds may have useful medical application.

  • Dozens of promising products from marine organisms are being advanced, including a cancer therapy made from algae and a painkiller taken from the venom in cone snails. The antiviral drugs Ara-A and AZT and the anticancer agent Ara-C, developed from extracts of sponges found on a Caribbean reef, were among the earliest modern medicines obtained from coral reefs.

  • Other products, such as Dolostatin 10, isolated from a sea hare found in the Indian Ocean, are under clinical trials for use in the treatment of breast and liver cancers, tumors, and leukemia.
  • Coral reefs represent an important and as yet largely untapped source of natural products with enormous potential as pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, enzymes, pesticides, cosmetics, and other novel commercial products.
  • The prospect of finding a new drug in the sea, especially among coral reef species, may be 300 to 400 times more likely than isolating one from a terrestrial ecosystem. Although terrestrial organisms exhibit great species diversity, marine organisms have greater phylogenetic diversity, including several phyla and thousands of species found nowhere else.

    It is estimated that less than 10 percent of coral reef biodiversity is known, and only a small fraction of the described species have been explored as a source of biomedical compounds. Even for known organisms, there is insufficient knowledge to promote their sustainable management. Unfortunately, a heavy reliance on coral reef resources worldwide has resulted in the overexploitation and degradation of many reefs, particularly those near major human populations. Managing these critical resources has become more difficult because of economic and environmental pressures, and human populations continue to grow.

    Back to Content

    4. Ecology and marine life seriously imperilled

    There are many threats to coral reefs and the majority of them are human induced. Coral reefs are particularly susceptible to human activities because most coral reefs occur in shallow waters that are near shores where human impacts are the greatest. Human impacts such as population stress, increased sediment load, shipping, development along shorelines, over-fishing, habitat destruction, pollution, careless tourism, and ocean warming and bleaching have dramatic negative impacts on the coral reefs. Natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes have significant effects on the coral reef ecosystem however the damage is considered a natural cycle of the ecosystem. Human damage has a more significant effect on the coral ecosystem and it can take a much longer time for the reef to recover.

    Unplanned development and construction of hotels for tourists on the beach is destroying the natural beauty as well as the marine ecosystem of St Martin's, the only coral island of Bangladesh. Now there are nine hotels along the beach and ten more are on the drawing board. All of them are intended to be situated on the beach. The island, which was once a haven for Olive Ridley turtles, tiny red crabs and many other marine animals, is now the victim of mindless, environment-destroying development. It is by now crowded by different structures. The habitats of rare and endangered marine life are being destroyed willy-nilly, and the scenic beauty is being ruined.

    Many big sea turtles were found dead on the beach. Residents of the island said that once there were a lot of snails, oysters, jelly fish and star fish, but now very few live snails or oysters are found on the shore. They also said many species of trees have become extinct and the biodiversity of the island is being depleted. St Martin's Union Parishad chairman, Moulvi Feroj Ahmed Khan, said many rich people had bought plots of land along the beach for building hotels, but they did not take permission from the authorities concerned in this regard.

    Large tracts of the land were once used for cultivation by the local people, said an elderly man of the island, but now they are being covered by buildings, endangering the food security of the country. The number of inhabitants has been increasing day by day in this small island of 8 square kilometres, threatening the ecology of this unique coral area. There are more than 7,000 inhabitants in the island,the chairman said, and many of the Rohingya refugees hide there.

    He said they had held a meeting on November 3 with the deputy commissioner to take steps for driving 70 Rohingya refugee families out of the island. "We are yet to expel any refugee."

    Though the government took up different projects to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem of the island, illegal collection of algae and coral is still going on in the Chhera island, a part of the main island, which is separated from St Martin's during high tide. A fisherman, who was selling many live and dead algae on November 18 at the Chhera island, told New Age that they were aware that algae collection was illegal. "But it has high demand among the tourists. Many visitors ask us where they can get such algae. So we respond to the demand. After all, we have to make a living." , (New Age, December 5, 2004)

    Back to Content

    5. Most coral reefs under threat

    Threats from human activities include:

  • Sewage, fertilizer and chemical pollution
  • Sedimentation
  • Coastal construction and development
  • Seagrass and mangrove habitat loss
  • Ocean warming and rising carbon dioxide
  • Overfishing
  • Destructive fishing practices including the use of cyanide and dynamite
  • Coral mining for building materials and thesouvenir trade
  • Careless recreation
  • There are many threats to coral reefs and the majority of them are human induced. Coral reefs are particularly susceptible to human activities because most coral reefs occur in shallow waters that are near shores where human impacts are the greatest. Human impacts such as population stress, increased sediment load, shipping, development along shorelines, over-fishing, habitat destruction, pollution, careless tourism, and ocean warming and bleaching have dramatic negative impacts on the coral reefs. Natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes have significant effects on the coral reef ecosystem however the damage is considered a natural cycle of the ecosystem. Human damage has a more significant effect on the coral ecosystem and it can take a much longer time for the reef to recover.

    Human practices such as the use of dynamite or poison capture have lead to over-fishing as well as enormous damage to the coral reefs. The reefs are so fragile that even an inadvertent touch by a diver or snorkeler can severely damage the coral polyps. Pollution especially siltation from land-based construction, and fertilizer runoff have lead to coral reefs destruction worldwide not just in the United States. The sedimentation clouds the water and blocks the sunlight required for photosynthesis by the symbiotic algae. Hard corals are very dependent on the zooxanthellae algae and the relationship is being threatened by global warming. Global warming increases sea temperatures and therefore puts the delicate symbiotic relationship in jeopardy.

    Water pollution is has been identified as one of the primary causes of coral reef degradation. Pollution comes from a variety of sources and is often hard to trace to one particular source. Oil, gas, and pesticides are poisons to the marine and coral life. Water pollution comes from humans, animal waste and/or fertilizers that are dumped directly into the ocean or river systems. Hence, there are increased amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus that are added to the ecosystem. As a result algae grows out of control and the reefs are smothered because the sunlight is cut off. Pollution comes in several forms. Trash in the oceans also contributes to the destruction of the reefs by blocking sunlight. Trash is also very damaging to the marine life that lives in the coral reef. Sea turtles can mistaken plastic bags for jellyfish and accidentally eat them, which will eventually cause the turtle to starve to death. Discarded fishing nets snag on reefs and literally strangle thousands of fish and other marine life.

    Sedimentation tends to have similar effects as water pollution. Sedimentation is a result of construction and deforestation along costs and inshore construction, mining, logging and farming. All these processes lead to erosion, which results in sediment overloading in ocean ecosystems. The sedimentation blankets coral reefs and actually smothers the coral because it deprives the corals of sunlight for photosynthesis. Some natural marine ecosystems include mangrove trees and sea grass beds. These are vital aspects of the marine ecosystem because the trees and grasses act as filters for sediment. Unfortunately these natural filters are being destroyed at alarming rates as well, which has lead to an increase in the amount of sediment that reaches the reefs.

    Many of our current fishing practices are very destructive and very unsustainable. Some of the more popular fishing techniques include cyanide fishing and blast fishing. Cyanide fishing supplies live fish however the technique requires the fisherman/woman to squirt the poison into the reef in order to stun fish. The cyanide actually poisons the coral polyps. Another destructive fishing practice is over-fishing where too many fish are taken from the reef. This is often a result of a large population in an area were the people are extremely dependent on the reef for survival. In some areas people even use explosives to blast apart the coral in order to fish.

    The two main sources of marine pollution are oil pollution from oil spills, oil drilling and from everyday boat use, and heavy metal pollution from port dredging and ship dumping activities. Both cause long lasting disturbances to coastal ecosystems with heavy metal pollution having the greatest implication to the coastal population. The heavy metals, like the pesticides accumulate up the food chain and can get into the human population, causing servere illness, birth defects and infant deaths.

    About 70 percent of the world's coral reefs have been wrecked or are at risk from human activities but some are showing surprising resilience to global warming, a report said yesterday. The international survey, by 240 experts in 98 nations, said that pollution, over-fishing, rising temperatures, coastal development and diseases were among major threats to reefs, vast ecosystems often called the nurseries of the seas. "Twenty percent of the world's coral reefs have been effectively destroyed or show no immediate prospects of recovery," said the report, issued on the first day of a U.N. environmental conference in Buenos Aires lasting until Dec. 17. The Status of Coral Reefs of the World 2004 also said that another "24 percent of the world's reefs are under imminent risk of collapse through human pressures, and a further 26 percent are under a longer-term threat of collapse." "The major emerging threat to coral reefs in the last decade has been coral bleaching and mortality associated with global climate change," it said. Bleaching is a mass death of corals caused by a sudden rise in ocean temperatures.

    Even so, it said some reefs had recovered sharply from a 1998 bleaching which seriously damaged 16 percent of all reefs worldwide, especially in the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. "About 40 percent of the...reefs that were seriously damaged in 1998 are either recovering well or have recovered," it said. Some of the report's highlights were issued in Bangkok last month. It said the 1998 warming had been the most serious in 1,000 years but was likely to happen about every 50 years in future, largely because of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels in cars, factories or power stations.

    Corals are formed by a build-up of limestone skeletons left by tiny marine animals called polyps. The graveyards can become giant structures like the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, colorful homes to thousands of species from sharks to seaweed. The report said nations around the world should do more to cut pollution, restrict fishing and fight to curb emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide to protect corals. The WWF environmental group, which took part in the report, urged governments meeting in Buenos Aires to set a goal of limiting a rises in temperatures linked to global warming to 2.0 celsius (3.60F).

    "To save coral reefs, governments must reduce carbon dioxide emissions quickly, but also create marine protected areas," said Simon Cripps, head of the WWF's global marine program. Temperatures have risen by 0.6C since the late 1800s. The report said the major success of the past five years had been strict protection of a third of the Great Barrier Reef by Australia. The United States is taking similar steps off Hawaii and Florida. But 75 percent of coral reefs are in developing countries where human populations are rising rapidly and millions depend on reefs for food (Reuters, December 7, 2004)

    Reefs are very sensitive to environmental conditions. To protect the only reef island in Bangladesh is not very late but a sound reef management programme can protect it. Before a management strategy can be worked out, a complete resource inventory has to be taken and highly detailed maps of the entire reef system are to draw. Further, detail questionnaires to individuals and organizations that use the reef and persons who are living in the mainland, in an effort to know their living ways and how the reef is used etc. A management programme can only be achieved with the participatation of all people that survived indigenously, but unfortunately such programme is still a dream.

    For the reef system to return to its original state naturally will take several hundred years if the human activities are reduced dramatically or 50-100 years if stopped immediately.

    Bangladesh most ill-prepared

    Every year, St. Martin's island in Bangladesh gets a little smaller. The storms that batter its fragile shores are becoming increasingly severe and more and more coral is lost to the waves. Local council chairman Moulvi Feroze Ahmed doesn't know much about global warming or scientists' dire predictions for the fate of low-lying Bangladesh. But he fears for the future and the livelihoods of thousands of people on Bangladesh's only coral island.

    "No one has ever told my people what awaits them in 50 years or a century," Feroze said on Friday, hours before a U.N. climate panel released a report issuing the strongest warning yet that human activities are heating the planet. "But I have seen the island gradually reduced to a size of 8 sq-km now from 12 sq-km 20 years ago," he told Reuters from Saint Martin's in the Bay of Bengal off the country's southernmost tip of Teknaf.

    "The corals are being eroded, land being squeezed. This is what we see ... and wonder why the Bay that gives us fish and a secure living is becoming cruel," Feroze, 55, said. "Recently, various sea species including turtles and dolphins are dying along our shores. But we don't know why." Bangladesh, with more than 140 million people, is one of the world's most densely populated nations. It is also one of the most ill-prepared to face global warming and also likely to be among the nations worst affected, officials and experts said on Friday.

    Millions of people live along the largely flat delta bound by the Bay of Bengal to the south. As sea levels rise and storms increase in number and severity, vast areas of land will be swallowed by the sea, experts say.


    "Millions of Bangladeshis will lose their land and homes, adding to the South Asian country's plight of poverty and overcrowding," said Ainun Nishat, Bangladesh country representative of the World Conservation Union. More than 11 percent of Bangladesh's land area would be lost if sea levels rose by 1 metre over the next 50 or 100 years, he said.

    "The impacts on Bangladesh would include increased levels of drought, flooding and storms, especially in coastal belts, salinity and loss of land," he added. At the Paris climate meet yesterday experts said, in the densely populated flood plains of Bangladesh, rising seas will not only ruin fertile regions but stoke the storm surges that periodically ravage the low-lying nation.

    In Barisal, on Bangladesh's southwest coast, fishermen said the sea had become more erratic in recent years. "We had at least 10 storms in the Bay in the past year (2006), with more ferocity and loss of lives," said Moslem Miah, 62.

    "I have been fishing since my boyhood. Our main catch has been the Hilsha fish. But no longer they fill our nets like before. Where have they gone?"

    Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, chairman of the Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh, said salt water would also leach into large areas along mainland Bangladesh, damaging agriculture. "The Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, will also be affected in case of sea level rise, sending in more saline water," he told Reuters.

    "The Bangladesh government has prepared a national plan of action to face the impact of climate change but it has yet to receive any global financial support," Chowdhury added.

    Nishat said the country was almost certainly being affected by climate change. "But Bangladesh is ill prepared to face the threats," he said (Source: The Daily Star, February 03, 2007).

    Sea Turtles Dying Along Bangladesh Coast

    BANGLADESH, COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh - More than 200 turtles, some weighing 20 kg (44 pounds) or more, have died in the Bay of Bengal along the Bangladesh coast over the past week, government officials and witnesses said on Monday. "Around 140 turtles were found dead along a 4-km (2.5 miles) stretch of the beach," Mohammad Aminul Islam, deputy commissioner of Cox's Bazar district, said.

    He said more turtles were dying on the shores of St. Martin island, 35 km off the country's southeastern tip, Teknaf. Fishermen have reported that some dolphins have also died.

    No one seems to know why the sea creatures are dying. Islam said he believed the turtles died after being caught in fishing nets. But fishermen said they did not catch that many turtles to begin with, and when they do, they throw them back into the water.

    Marine officials said the deaths could be caused by increased pollution in the bay, from waste disposal of ships or perhaps other unknown natural causes.

    Bangladesh has a 90-km natural beach from Cox's Bazar to Teknaf,which is poorly maintained and monitored (Source:REUTERS NEWS SERVICE Planet Ark, February 06, 2007).

    St. Martin needs conservation
    Implement plans to save its bio-diversity

    It is disquieting to learn that one of the finest coral islands in the world is facing the prospect of damage due to various factors including its use for 'commercial-tourism', according to environmentalists. Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA) wants it to be regarded as 'marine protected area'.

    From a pristine coral island inhabited by only a few farmers and those manning a weather station two decades ago, it has now grown into a rather busy crowded area without anyone really taking any notice of the harmful consequences on the island's bio-diversity. Human habitation, and all other related human activities in the area have gone on in an unplanned way in spite of the fact that it had been declared an ecologically critical area.

    If it had been declared an 'ecologically critical area' it is incredible that the project undertaken to provide necessary protection to prevent its degradation was not seen through, reportedly, because the person entrusted with the project didn't have the wherewithal to ensure implementation of the scheme. Lack of oversight, if not of interest, has added to the present condition of the island. Otherwise one cannot explain why the recommendations of the National Conservation Strategy Project- Phase I have not been implemented even after 15 years of its formulation.

    It's inevitable that the demographic pressure that the country suffers from will trickle down to a remote area like the St. Martin. But the island can sustain life and have planned tourism also without losing on its ecology, if appropriate rules and conditions were formulated and the people currently living there and those planning to do so were made aware and motivated to abide by those.

    We join our voice with the environmentalists to call upon the government to take legal measures to save the island; to regulate tourism so that the environment is not harmed and ensure coordination among various ministries and agencies so that not only are appropriate measures planned that they are also undertaken and implemented without delay (Editorial, Daily Star, September 23, 2007)

    Flora, fauna of Saint Martin’s island under critical stresses

    The hotels and restaurants that sprang up in the recent past in Saint Martin's Island, one of the ecologically critical areas (ECA) in the country, have been operating without any official approval. According to the law, building of any structure and carrying out any activity that might pollute the environment or harm the flora and fauna in an ECA is strictly prohibited. But the different government agencies turning a blind eye to the violation. Nearly 100 privately owned hotels and restaurants are currently doing business in the 3.34-square kilometre island with only 10,000 inhabitants. Most of these business houses found them in last twelve years. Sources said that on an average 2,500 visitors use to visit the island everyday during the peak tourist season. They reserve their seats in the hotels. The problem is that the sewerage lines from the hotels are polluting the blue waters.

    Use of diesel to generate electricity for the hotels having 800-bed capacity for overnight stay of tourists is also degrading the natural environment of the island in the southern-most tip of Bangladesh. Permanently migrated Rohingyas have raised the population of Saint Martin's Island from about 5,700 in 2001 to nearly 10,000 in 2009. On September 29, 2007, the Director of Department of Environment (DoE), Chittagong Division, in a letter said, the DoE had never given approval to any hotel or restaurant to operate on the island. Considering its rich natural biodiversity, the government in a gazette notification declared Saint Martin 's an ecologically critical area on April 19, 1999. Extraction of coral, seashell and conch, felling of trees and building structures were declared restricted in the gazette.

    Director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association (Bela), Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, construction of any hotel or restaurant within the ECA is prohibited. It's a violation of Sections 5 and 12 of Environment Protection Act. Violators could be punished with a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and additional Taka 10 lakh in fine, she added. Thousands of tourists are thronging St Martin's Island every year for its crystal clear blue seawaters, corals, shells, conch and giant crabs. According to Saint Martin's Hotel Owners' Association sources, not less than 1,20,000 people visited the island last year. The objective of the government-sponsored eco-tourism project was to ensure an undisturbed habitat for the flora and fauna of the island.

    "Sea turtles, one of the major indicators of the health of sea, are not getting the suitable environment for laying eggs. Besides, the number of mother turtles is decreasing every year. It will be harmful for our sea as the turtles help keep the sea environment clean," said an official of Ministry of Environment and Forest. According to a government report, most of the residential houses and all but 10 hotels and restaurants on the island do not use ring-slab toilets. Raw sewage and other wastes are discharged in the open environment instead.

    In a survey conducted by Village Education Resource Center (Verc), a non-government organisation, the presence of coliform bacteria, a serious contaminant found in food or drinking water, was detected in the groundwater of St Martin 's. The presence of the bacteria was detected to be 10 times higher than Bangladesh standard. Observers believe that the said island has potentialities to send revenues to the government in millions. So, the future plans should be structured accordingly, including protection of environment. S(ource: The New Nation, April 11, 2010 )

    Back to Content


    Anwar, J. (1993). Bangladesh: The State of the Environment, CARDMA, Dhaka.
    Bohnsack, J. A. (1996). The impacts of fishing on coral reefs.Ó Biological Conservation 76(2): 211.
    Daily Star (2004), Dhaka, Bangladesh
    Edinger, E. N. R., Michael J. (2000). Reef classification by coral morphology predicts coral reef conservation value Biological Conservation 92(1): 1-13.
    Grenfell, A. M., Spalding, M.D. (1997). New estimates of global and regional coral reef areas. Coral Reef 16(4): 225-230.
    Hernandez, G. (2003). Coral Reef, NOAA. 2003.
    Hodgson, G. (1999). A Global Assessment of Human Effects on Coral Reefs. Marine Pollution Bulletin 38(5): 345-355.
    Hoffmann, T. C. (2002). Coral reef health and effects of socio-economic factors in Fiji and Cook Islands. Marine Pollution Bulletin 44(11): 1281-1293.
    McClanahan, T. R., Obura, D. (1997). Sedimentation effects on shallow coral communities in Kenya.Ó Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 209(1-2): 103-122.
    McClanahan, T. R. (2000). Bleaching Damage and Recovery Potential of Maldivian Coral Reefs.Ó Marine Pollution Bulletin 40(7): 587-597. New Age (2004), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Last Modified: October 25, 2010

    Top of Page
    Back to Environment
    Back to Homegarden