Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, July 12, 2007

By Adnan M. S. Fakir

Mountains and sea coalescing on the same landscape is quite the rare scene, and the recent state of the Bay of Bengal tends to make our Cox's Bazaar more hauntingly exhilarating. As much as it may inspire a poet's mind or create a vacation spot for the exhausted, it is making life for many harder than before. While the main beach is still calm and lucid, the adjunct coastal areas seem to be at war with the land.

Being at signal-3 for the past several weeks, the fishermen were getting used to the gigantic waves and strong surges besieging the beach and other coastal areas. They carried on their usual hunt for rupchanda, loitta, chingri, and latka fishes in over-sized boats called sampans and old dilapidated steamers, risking their lives for their living their usual practice. The sights were precariously stunning; the fishermen holding on to their nets and oars with waves at least 3 feet over their heads devouring them while the steamers in the distant appear to sink and resurface among the fuming waves.

On June 27 however, Poseidon must have been in a seriously bad mood, as the scene was much more aggravated. The calamity without any notice jumped from signal-3 to signal-7. While all steamers and sampans pulled back, the sea advanced almost the entire length of the beach and the waves crashed onto all the huts and buildings by the shore. The huts were demolished while the waves tore down several brick walls. In this situation, one steamer was stuck in the sea due to engine failure and was signaling for help. Five brave men took a speed boat and tried their momentum against the fierce waves; they barely advanced 300-400 gauge into the sea when, due to excessive water, their engine also broke down. Instantly, like gigantic hands the waves made the entire boat tumble, ripping the wooden framework like dry leaves. The men luckily managed to swim back to shore. This was just one of many such disasters.

I was amazed to hear how without any fear the fishermen talked about their life events. As one fisherman said, “The raging sea and drowning boats are a daily episode now.” The sea is their home, their employer, and risking their lives is frankly the least of their concerns. When I had reached Cox's Bazaar the sea was at signal-4 and the waves were the most mesmerizing of all other sights, but at the same time, the claimer of many lives.

Subsequent to the Global Warming article, many inquired me why we should worry about Global Warming as Bangladesh contributes very little compared to other countries. I request them to come to Cox's Bazaar now and investigate the situation here other than at the main beach, instead of sitting under air-conditioned rooms and sipping on a cup of hot tea and grumbling. Don't worry; most motels are now offering a 50% discount to attract the few visitors that visit the place and you can still ride horses and bikes at Tk.50 to Tk.100 by the shore or hire a speed boat at Tk.3000 to Tk.5000 and enjoy the rage of the sea.

The high signals in Cox's Bazaar occurred while parts of Chittagong were recently flooded, exhibiting the relationship between the two. Entire ground floors were drowned and many families lost everything. One such family said that the water gushed into the houses in just 20 minutes and they barely had time to evacuate anything except the important documents. Many poor people in Cox's Bazaar are now living in half sunken huts, while several fishermen are modifying their huge sampan boats to withstand the strong surges of the sea. Notably also, during proper high tide, Saint Martins Island is usually reduced almost by half land mass due to increase in sea level; its not entirely high tide right now but the island is already reduced to less than half the usual land mass.

Results of the recent devastation are an increase in thievery and prices of sea fish and shutki; currently latka shutki is priced at Tk.3000 per kg! Speaking of fish, rumor has it that a baby dolphin was found dead by the shore in Poshchim Kolatoli area of Cox's Bazaar, the dolphin being killed by the fishermen fearing it was a shark! How the dolphin got there, or how much the rumor is true, I have no idea.

One may argue that this is the time for the sea to be furious as such. While, it most likely will calm down in winter, nonetheless, the rage of the sea is much more intense than previous years. If you are in the mood to take a good vacation with something out of the ordinary, take a dip in Cox's Bazaar now for a different taste. Trust me, the salty wind and the extravagant sea is bound to seduce you.



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