The government has revised fees in the Sundarbans after a decade, doubling it for both local and foreign tourists and for people whose livelihoods depend on it.
The decision came into effect from February 26 for the world’s largest mangrove forest, a Unesco declared world heritage site which tops the list of tourist attractions for its rich biodiversity.
The environment, forest and climate change ministry in a gazette notification informed of the decision, taken to increase revenue collection following approval from the finance ministry on December 26 last year.
In a revised decision, the per-day fee for local tourists in places except sanctuary is set at Tk 150 while the previous fee was Tk 70. Foreign tourists will have to pay Tk 2,000, from what used to be Tk 1,000.
The per-day fee for local tourists in each three sanctuaries of the Sundarbans has been set at Tk 300, which would be Tk 3,000 for foreigners. Local tourists will have to pay Tk 300 per day for each camera, while foreigners will have to pay Tk 500.
Apart from this, the fee for unregistered tourist trawlers has also risen. It is now Tk 1,000 for a three-day package on unregistered trawlers and Tk 300 for the registered ones. Every boat or trawler will have to pay Tk 300 for a day’s stay in the Sundarbans.
The fee for collecting Sundori, Pashur, Kakra, Kaora, Bain, Geoya, Dhundol wood have been fixed based on their width. For example, collecting per quintal of golpata will cost Tk 60, which was Tk 25 earlier.
Forest-dependent population used to pay Tk 1,200 per quintal of sea bass. The cost has now doubled to Tk 2,400 per quintal. The revised fee for crab per quintal stands at Tk 750 from the previous Tk 275.
However, Rajat Suvra Gayen, president of Renaissance Sarbik Gram Unnayan Samobay Samiti, working to ameliorate the living standard of the forest-dependent population, told this correspondent that the decision could force people to switch their professions.
“The pandemic already took a heavy toll on them. The availability of fish declined due to miscreants who use poison to net fish. People will now have to pay double the fee, which will definitely intensify their woes,” he said.
Contacted, Mihir Kumar Dey, Khulna divisional forest conservator, said, “We revised it after a decade. This will put some pressure on the forest-dependent population, but throughout these years fees for every service have risen, which prompted us to make this decision.”
Apu Nazrul, an independent tour organiser, told The Daily Star that foreign tourists, who usually visit the Sundarbans, are on a budget.
“The decision will discourage them from travelling. The forest department should reverse the decision and lower the rates even further, to help the tourism sector recover from the brunt of the pandemic,” he said.
According to the forest department, 1,56,000 tourists visited the Sundarbans last year, five percent of whom were foreigners.