Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ecotourism Team Maps Trek in Bangladesh

An American Bengali team were the first to map a trek across the remote Teknaf Peninsula. Following local paths, the team was easily able to develop a new ecotourism adventure that will bring excitement to the plan to develop community-based nature tourism to the Teknaf Peninsula

Departing at 7AM, the team viewed wild Asian elephant on the hillside above the trek's starting point. They were distant, but their dusty backs and trunks were clearly evident. These elephant are a remnant population, and highly endangered. Elephants are the most important megafauna remaining on the Teknaf, living in the wild in the central foothills. The elephant is of high conservation importance, as they are considered to be endangered both within their total range in Asia, and in Bangladesh.

Tigers which once roamed wild on the Teknaf, are now without habitat. Experts say it is possible they could repopulate the area, via existing wildlife corridors, if the region were re-forested with native flora and wildlife species.

This beautiful forest was in the eastern Naf Watershed near the entrance to the reserve.

The trek included walks through canyon like areas as the team followed several river beds, making the trek only feasible in the dry season. Higher ground routes will be possible, for trekkers interested in more rigorous adventures.

On arrival at the beach we spent time with the local fishing communities to learn more about their livelihood. We were very surprised to learn that already 25% of the land had been purchased by local speculators interested in developing beach hotels, and we even met some business men looking at land. The area is relatively accessible from the village of Teknaf, and so we learned that a land grab is already underway on the beach side of the peninsula.

The opportunity to cross over a watershed, view elephants, and interact with the unique cultures on the Teknaf's enormous beach is world-class. The 140 plus classes of boats in Bangladesh have already been nominated for UNESCO world heritage status. The team is now working closely with Contic - the French Bengali company that has undertaken a full study of the traditions of boatmaking, with a boatyard in Dhaka where they continue to foster traditional boat crafting. We were able to look at the different style of Bengali boats on the beach this visit with repesentatives from Contic who are helping our team to evaluate tourism potential of the Teknaf.

The trek across the Teknaf was a resounding success. Community members who led the trek had only crossed the peninsula once or twice in their lives. Our team of natural resource, ecotourism, and community specialists will now incorporate the trek into the Teknaf Peninsula Community Based Ecotourism Strategy.

Given this area is highly endangered by rapid land speculation and an impending coastal road, the team is encouraging the development of an Ecotourism Management Plan with government involvement as soon as possible. Further meetings on this topic with high governmental officials are transpiring today.

1 comment:

  1. It is a nice post to read.
    we are right now working for promoting outdoor activity in Bangladesh. we start a project for basically mapping trails of Bangladesh by a web based open source titled 'banglatrek'.

    if you interested to contribute any information then please check


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