The all-weather Itna-Mithamoin-Austragram road in Kishoreganj district is attracting a growing number of tourists to haor, now a popular tourist destination.
It has also become a source of widespread littering by visitors who are mindlessly polluting the beautiful water body, reports UNB.
The vast expanse of water, which has turned into a hotspot for the enthusiasts, mainly the young people to spend quality time with friends and family members, has now been witnessing huge non-biodegradable waste thanks to lack of awareness among the visitors.
During recent visits to the now-famous haor road, it was found that the visitors coming to enjoy the splendour of the spot were least bothered to protect the beauty and bio-diversity of the haor.
The types of littering the haor-road face include dropping of plastic and other bottles, cans, cigarette butts, cigarette packets, papers, paper bags, waste from different food items, coconut shells, and tissue papers, as the visitors dump those here and there without considering any consequence.
Though now littering has become a big threat for this wonderful tourist spot due to the rush of travellers, no effective initiative to stop it is visible.
Some visitors said careless littering is harming the environment besides undermining the beauty and biodiversity.
Terming the haor wetland as a sensitive zone, a regular traveller and broadcast Journalist Shakil Hasan said, “Haor is the home of different species of fish, aquatic animals, and herbs. Besides, aquatic animals and fish of haor eat these as their food. The environment of the haor is being ruined due to the indiscriminate dumping of garbage by the increasing number of insensible tourists. The food cycle of fish and aquatic animals is being disrupted too.”
Besides, the pollution of water and the environment of the haor has created a shortage of food for the birds. The arrival of guest birds is decreasing day by day due to pollution and reckless movement of tourists, he also said.
The tourist stressed controlling the pollution and limiting the movement of the tourists in order to keep the environment of haor healthy.
He also urged the government to take initiatives to ensure stopping the littering and advised tourists to be seriously aware of this issue.
Another visitor Nasimul Hasan said initiatives should be made to ensure proper monitoring and management issues to take care of the important project which is related to biodiversity.
Local fishermen said that they are receiving more garbage after the opening of the road as tourists dump them in the water ignoring the adverse environmental impact.
Sharing some photos on littering on his Facebook profile, Rezwan Ahmed Tawfiq, member of Parliament of Kishoreganj 4 constituency consisting of haor Upazilla- Itna, Mithamoin and Austragram, said that the massive development work being done under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, following the path of Bangabandhu's dream, has also stirred up the haor in this remote area. Nikli, Itna, Mithmoin, Austragram have become one of the tourist hotspots in Bangladesh which are receiving thousands of visitors coming from different parts of the country every day.
Saying haor as the beautiful part of Bangladesh, the national treasure and everyone's pride,’ Rezwan Ahmed said that it is the national duty of all to maintain this invaluable resource and beauty of haor, conserve the aquatic natural environment, biodiversity and vitality of the haor. Therefore, the haor should be kept clean and free from any kind of pollution and environmentally harmful activities.
“If any dirt, garbage, waste material, especially plastic bottles, sticks, packets, polythene or utensils are left scattered in the haor water, it will cause a serious disaster. This will reduce the fertility of the land as well as disrupt the flow of water and hinder the development of fish breeding and plant resources,” he said.
Rezwan Ahmed, the son of President Abdul Hamid, said that the environment department has already warned against dumping hundreds of bottles, packets, and polythene in the haor. Strict laws should be enforced to protect the area from such environmental damages.
He urged the tourists to take utmost care in maintaining the balance of the environment and keep the national wealth, haor clean and natural through sensible practice and behaviour.
"We want a pollution-free fresh environment. So, we have to stand against pollution and take a vow to protect the haor,” he added.
Local administrations informed that the government is also formulating rules for punishing those who will dump wastes here and there on the site instead of dumping those in the designated installed bins.
Travel bloggers and thrill-seekers, or just normal people who like nothing better than to drive out of town, have their latest craze to travel to the north and towards Kishoreganj.
All of them seem to return with one message to deliver above all else: they have seen one of ‘the most beautiful roads in Bangladesh!’
While tourism is bound to generate extra incomes for the locals serving the industry directly or as ancillaries (e.g. boatmen said they are struggling to keep up with the number of tourists already), it does bring with it the danger of overexploitation of the natural bounties. The haor as an ecosystem may be even more vulnerable.
Almost half of the Kishoreganj district, including four of its 6 upazilas - Itna, Mithamoin, Oshtogram, and Nikli - is designated as a complete haor area: unique wetland ecosystems that during the monsoon resemble vast inland seas.
The almost 30-km Itna-Mithamoin-Austagram highway, which connects these 3 upazilas of Kishoreganj by going straight through the haor, can be seen as part of that push, although work on the Tk 5.14-billion project was inaugurated in 2016 by President Abdul Hamid.
The Roads and Highways Department implemented the project that includes the 29-km main highway, 7 box-culverts, and 7 RCC bridges, plus the three big bridges.