COX'S BAZAR, Oct 13: An accident may happen in Teknaf's Saint Martin's Island as its old, damaged, and poorly-maintained jetty can completely collapse anytime, feared the locals of the only coral island of Bangladesh.
Saint Martin's sees more tourists with the peak season starting from October and ending in March. This jetty, by which people enter and embark from the ships on the island, used to attract thousands of tourists once. However, its dilapidated condition is now causing sufferings to tourists from home and abroad, said one of the locals.
On November 15, 2007, the jetty's parking point and two girders were heavily damaged by cyclone Sidr. Since then, the jetty has become risky. The impact of cyclones and tidal waves has been battering the jetty, making it almost unusable. Small and big cracks can be found everywhere. Most parts of the jetty, railings, and stairs have been damaged. “However, no initiative has so far been taken to repair it”, he added.
The 300-metre jetty was set up in the fiscal year 2002-03 under the supervision of the Local Government Engineering Department for the convenience of Saint Martin's residents and tourists visiting the island.
Habibur Rahman, a local UP (union parishad) member, said, "The jetty has become a death trap for us. Its poor condition can any time cause a big accident."
According to UP chairman Nur Ahmed, they informed the concerned department for repairing the jetty quickly, but no action has been taken yet.
“Although the district council earns a lot of money every year by leasing this jetty, it has not undertaken any kind of repair work”, he said. The chairman also alleged that the district council does not repair the jetty from its own budget but collects money from the ship owners.
Asked about this, Teknaf Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Parvez Chowdhury said, "The jetty has been in a dilapidated condition for a long time. Recently, I, myself, have visited the jetty, and sent a proposal to the ministry to repair it. Besides, the ship owners and Karnafuli Shipyard have agreed to cooperate to complete the work. We also want to get the job done quickly."
Cox's Bazar District Council chief executive Hillol Biswas said, "A huge amount of revenue is collected through this jetty. However, the jetty has become unusable long ago. A project proposal worth Tk 17.2 million (1.72 crore) has been sent to the ministry for its repair works. Once approved, we will arrange the tender process. Then the repair work will start."
However, the businessmen who have made investments centring the island are spending their days hopelessly because of this jetty and fear of low turnouts of tourists.
According to them, if any kind of accident happens due to the damaged jetty, the tourism business will fall flat this island, and at least 30,000 people's livelihoods and employment will be at risk. If the jetty is not repaired in a short time, the tourism industry will suffer and the government will lose a huge amount of revenue, they concluded.