Students of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh
Study Coastal Environment
Jussi Dayna Biswas and Tanvir Hossain
THE best possible way to explore knowledge is to visit places. This is what the Department of Environmental Science of Stamford University Bangladesh does in its field studies. This year the students took part in a four-day field study in the Chakaria-Maheshkhali area to have first-hand knowledge of the anthropogenic impacts on environment. The main objective of the trip was to observe the anthropogenic impacts of shrimp culture and saltpan on the coastal mangrove ecosystem in the Chakaria-Maheshkahi area. The second objective was to see the economic aspect of tourism with reference to waste management in Cox's Bazar and Maheshkhali areas. In between, we had the chance to visit the Inani Beach to observe nearby forest as well as the coral formations in the sea beach.
The team experienced the processes and seasonal procedures of salt and shrimp culture, and the consequent impacts on the dwindling mangrove forests in Chakaria. As there is a recent initiative to regenerate mangrove forests, the practice of shrimp-salt culture is increasing the saline concentration in soil. As a result, the traditional agricultural practices have also been negatively affected leading to an ecological imbalance.
The team visited Maheshkhali Island with the objectives to observe the socio-economic condition as well as the nature of environmental degradation due to anthropogenic activities. On their way to Maheshkhali from Cox's Bazar, the team noticed piles of wastes dumped near the jetty. On reaching Maheshkhali, the students found that the people mostly depend on offshore fishing activities and some on seasonal salt production. Many are earning their livelihoods by preparing and selling dried fish. Besides, in the plain land the people are engaged in agricultural activities. However, the team observed that there were large-scale plantation of eucalyptus trees in the island. The students understood the prime reason of eucalyptus plantation, which is its rapid growth, and it may protect the island from storm surges. But these trees are causing damage to biodiversity in the island at the cost of traditional coconut and betel nut cultivation that also withstand impacts of storm surges and have enormous cash value.
The trip ended with a quick survey on the impacts of tourism with reference to waste management at the Kalatoli sea beach at Cox's Bazar. The students identified that the natural environment of the beach area is getting deteriorated with its popularity among tourists and improper management of solid wastes generated due to tourism. Other than that they also saw brownish sea foam coming from some distant locations. The difference between white and brown sea foam was very much distinguishable and the suspected reason behind this could be oil dumping by ships in the sea water. A large number of dead jelly fish on the sea beach indicated the level of pollution of sea water. Another interesting finding from interviewing the tourists was that there are no recreational facilities in Cox's Bazar town after evening. Therefore, they had to be satisfied with fixed cable TV programmes in the hotel rooms. There has been proliferation of hotels and apartment buildings without due regard to coastal environment but nobody is thinking of developing facilities, like, amusement/theme parks, aqua-recreation, marine museum, guided tours in multitude of cultural and historical attractions nearby etc. which could easily make Cox's Bazar an enjoyable resort.
The participating students had to meet every evening in the review/discussion sessions and to chalk out programmes for the next day during their four-day programme. Professor K. Maudood Elahi, Chairman of the Department, Jussi Dayana Biswas, Dr. Ahmed Kamruzzaman and Nazmul, faculty members, made these sessions more informative and enjoyable. We, the participating students, felt that studying Environmental Science would be incomplete without knowing the environment practically. The Department of Environmental Science of Stamford University has considered this matter with great priority and has taken the responsibility to enrich the students' knowledge with practical experience. This kind of field trip is also allowing the students to be more qualified in job markets and more compatible in their working fields.