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Cox\'s Bazar: Harnessing the potential of marnine drive

Shihab Sarkar | Published: May 10, 2017 19:19:22 | Updated: October 21, 2017 21:14:50


The Cox's Bazar Beach appears to be set for a radical transformation in its overall look and character. This has been long overdue. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's inaugural on May 6 of the 80-kilometre Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive along the beach brings to the fore a lot of relevant thoughts. The two dominant ones among them are the potential this wonderful beach holds for tourism; and the loss the nation has incurred for not turning in earnest to the beach's overall development. Coming to its potential, the authorities concerned have all along neglected the beach except on occasions, which warrant ritualistic facelift. Irregularities of different types resorted to in the name of its renovation etc have been massive. A nation with just a handful of tourist attractions can in no way afford this luxury of frittering away such a great opportunity. Geological realities could have made Bangladesh a landlocked country. Instead, its entire southern part is laced by sea. It is blessed with the longest unbroken beach in the world. Its total length comes to 120 kilometres. Besides this beach, the country has one in Kuakata in Patuakhali district and another near the port city of Chittagong.
The 80km Cox's Bazar-Teknaf marine driveway has been constructed by the Bangladesh Army in collaboration with the Roads and Highways Department. While opening the driveway, the Prime Minister quite naturally focused on the prospects the driveway holds for tourism. That the driveway will open a new horizon for the Bangladesh tourism sector does not need much elaboration. In spite of the periodic and ritualistic rhetoric, the Cox's Bazar Beach is afflicted by scores of drawbacks. Compared to the tourist spots in the other developing countries, it lacks some major facilities. Only a decade ago, the beach would be found littered with many types of trash and refuse. Besides, the rush of visitors on special holidays appeared to be unwieldy. Incidents of eave-teasing and harassment, and snatching etc after dusk became common. These menaces, considered a great deterrent to increase in tourists from distant areas of the country, have largely disappeared.
In 2013, the government raised a new law enforcement force called Tourist Police with the responsibility to maintain law and order in the area. However, encroachment on the beach continues, with unplanned tourist hotels coming up unabated. Given the drastic drop in the number of foreign tourists in the recent years the authorities are mulling seriously to woo them back. The sandy beach with a gentle slope itself is a great attraction. In order to make it more alluring, the tourism department is planning to transform a nearby island into a tourist zone. The newly opened marine drive can be termed a prelude to that presumably grand project. Against the backdrop of the unmanageable visitors in a limited area, mindless littering and other nasty practices, the driveway opens for future tourists a window on a great array of untapped seaside beauty. Indisputably, the long marine drive carries vast potential for tourism in Bangladesh.
Not all the beaches, though otherwise magnificent, are gifted with the geological condition to have a marine drive in place. Nature has blessed Bangladesh with one. In South Asia, the two widely visited marine drives are located in Mumbai in India and Karachi in Pakistan. Both lie on the coast of the Arabian Sea. In terms of length, the 3.6-kilometre Mumbai Marine Drive is the earliest in the region. Due to its location on the southern fringe of the city and its semi-circular shape, the driveway has earned its place among the great tourist attractions in Asia. Due to its being mainly a boulevard to pass leisurely time, it has seen people coming in droves since its opening. Later, shopping arcades, high-rise buildings and other fancy structures came up. Crowds swelled accordingly. Through the passage of the time-span of 100 years, Mumbai Marine Drive has lost much of its solitude and quiet. The vast city, however, has over a dozen beautiful beaches. Prominent among them are Juhu Beach, Versova Beach, and Chowpatty Beach near Marine Drive. Karachi Marine Drive, also a semi-circular one passing along the Clifton Beach, offers a spectacular view of apartment buildings and other structures. It's also considered a great tourist attraction on the Karachi seaside. Given the deterioration in the otherwise enchanting Cox's Bazar Beach's environment, the newly constructed driveway is expected to serve as a great booster to helping restore its past glory. Unlike the other marine drives in the coastal areas of South Asia, the one on Cox's Bazar-Teknaf stretch is free of urban bustle. It will remain so for at least a decade. A great advantage of the country's first marine drive is its 80-kilometre length, and the sylvan surrounding through which it passes. Apart from a seemingly endless journey piercing pristine calm, the driveway goes along the seaside with occasional encounters with lush green hill ranges. The pleasant trip ends in the nearly last point of the beach --- in Teknaf, also a tourist spot. Gifted with all these bounties of fresh nature, the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive is set to emerge as a landmark tourist attraction of the country.
That the coastal area of Cox's Bazar has a unique appeal was first discovered by Mughal prince Shah Suja in 1616. He was travelling along the seaside hilly region to Arakan in his expedition to bring the kingdom under Mughal rule. He camped at Cox's Bazar, then called Panowa, meaning yellow flower, along with his people to enjoy the area's natural beauty. The place's later name of Cox's Bazar is derived from Captain Hiram Cox, an officer of the British East India Company. He was posted at the place to negotiate a deal between the feuding Arakaan refugees and the local Rakkhines. Cox nearly completed the task of rehabilitating the refugees when he died in 1799. In their tribute to him, the local people set up a market and named it Cox's Bazar. The tourism potential of the place began to be tapped after the British rule ended in 1947. In the then East Pakistan, Advocate Fazlul Karim, the first chairman of Cox's Bazar Municipality, embarked on the massive task of turning the beach into a tourist site. Apart from the beach, Fazlul Karim pioneered the task of building Cox's Bazar as a resort town. Though faltering and grinding to a virtual halt at times, the progress in developing the tourist site has continued since then.
The continent of South and Southeast Asia boasts of a number of grand beaches. Apart from Bangladesh, they are located in India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan. That Bangladesh is not included in the CNN Travel's list of 20 idyllic beaches in Asia is disappointing. It's true the beach lacks many recreational outlets offered by the other countries. But the sandy, unbroken beach is the longest in the world. The marine drive in combination with this natural attribute makes Cox's Bazar unique enough to be placed among the world's spectacular beaches.
shihabskr@ymail.com

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