Prospects of eco-tourism and Buddhist heritage tourism in Bangladesh

buddhaThe economic globalization of the world has boosted up the tourism trade and created an avenue for the developing countries to develop the sector in order to reap benefit out of this ever-expanding industry. Bangladesh is also working towards this goal despite of its being relatively nascent in the world of tourism. Though Bangladesh has not been a very popular destination, its products are immense. Bangladesh is a combination of verdant forests, riverine countryside, and long stretches of sun-bathed beaches, fearsome wilds, meandering rivers and venerable Buddhist monasteries. Bordering the mighty Bay of Bengal stands this magical tapestry in green with all the glory of its past and the splendid colours of its natural present. These unique products possess a great potential for developing the eco-tourism and Buddhist circuit tourism. If these products are properly developed Bangladesh could attract the innumerable tourists from Japan, Thailand, Korea, China and many other countries of Asia.

Buddhism in Bangladesh received royal patronage during the Pala and Gupta Dynasty, and its influence can still be perceived in the culture and heritage of this country especially in the life and society of the people of the Hill-tracts districts in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh some discoveries have been made on Buddhism, which are very significant

Bangladesh itself can take the initiative to develop the Buddhist Circuit Tourism among the Buddhist majority countries in Asia like Sri Lanka, Japan, Myanmar and Thailand including Japan. There are innumerable historical Buddhist sites in Bangladesh such as Buddhist Temple at Moheshkhali, Buddhist Monastery at Rangamati, 8th century old Buddhist Monastery at Paharpur, 8-12th Century old Buddhist Monastery at Mainamati, Kamalapur Buddhist Monastery at Dhaka etc., which can be developed as tourist products through joint efforts.

Among the 10 top tourists Generating Markets of Bangladesh Japan, China, Korea, Thailand tourists dominate the list. This is very encouraging and this could be increased provided more tourist facilities near the Buddhist sites could be developed. In 2003 Bangladesh received 6,523 tourists from Japan, 6,523 tourists from China, 7465 tourists from Korea, 4188 tourists from Thailand, 4184 tourists from Germany. The virgin nature of whole Bangladesh is good for eco-tourism. Bangladesh takes pride to have the world's single largest Mangrove forest Sundarbans. There is huge potential to develop eco-tourism the Sundarbans.

The Sundarban is the world's largest natural mangrove forest having a unique eco-system with various resources and habitat for fish, shrimp, Bengal tiger, estuarine, crocodiles, birds and other wild life. It is rich in biodiversity and natural resources. It also offers sanctuaries within this forest. Considering the importance of these eco-system, part of Sundarbans Reserved Forests comprising an area of 1,39,700 hectare has been declared as world's 798th heritage site by the UNESCO on 6th December, 1997.

Some programmes may be taken to preserve and conserve the bio-diversity of Sundarbans and develop eco-tourism there such as, Improvement boat-landing facilities at Hiron Point and improve appearance of guest house to allow facility to be used as rest stop by river tourists; Fixed facility development within the Zone should be prohibited, and animal-breeding stations be established at the edge of the sanctuaries. River tourism should be developed in this Zone; Promote economic development and reduce poverty among the communities of 17 (Seventeen) thanas in the surroundings impact zone, which are heavily dependent on the SRF for subsistence; Undertake activities adhering to increase awareness of the environment and eco-tourism and building necessary infrastructure; Prepare management plans for reserve forests and wild life, establishing systems to ensure full protection and control of natural assets (Z. H. Howlader, Sept., 2004).