Bangladesh is a South Asian country neighboring India with a burgeoning economy that is rapidly creating a middle class via the textile and other global industries. Its landscape is dominated by the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta which is the largest in the world. Flooded with humanity, Bangladesh is home to the population of the United States in an area roughly the size of Louisiana. Efforts to assist this country with forest and biodiversity preservation are being urgently addressed by global agencies including USAID, with community benefits a key focus.
EplerWood International provided strategic reports to the Integrated Protected Area Co-Management (IPAC) project to review how community based tourism could assist with the protection of Bangladesh's protected areas. EWI focused on two protected areas: The Teknaf Game Reserve and the Sunderbans Reserve Forest.
The EplerWood International reports emphasized the importance of creating a suite of policy and enterprise development tactics to ensure that tourism was sustainably developed. Observations based on discussions with government officials in Bangladesh indicated that the environmental management of tourism and its regulation had scarcely been considered by national agencies.
EWI proposed a Teknaf Nature Tourism Management Plan to create a vision for a more sustainable form of tourism development and provide a vehicle to achieve this via participatory bioregional planning, using a local team with technical assistance. The Teknaf Peninsula, home to the longest sand beach in the world, has already become a domestic tourism mecca with over 1 million visitors in 2008. To determine the potential for nature tourism development activity, the strategy reviewed existing tourism planning and development efforts, markets for tourism, market niches, investment climate, and the type of tourism development activity that would be recommended based on market niche segmentation. Discussions with the locally active private sector led to a variety of creative market opportunities for ecotourism that would be dependent on a holistic strategy to involve local people, preserve endangered species such as the wild Asian elephant, and an active effort to protect areas presently threatened by rapidly escalating development. Read the full Ecotourism Strategy
For the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, a biosphere reserve which was established to protect the largest mangrove in the world, EplerWood International recommended a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis of tourism to help IPAC capture current, relevant data on tourism in its various forms - both domestic and international - in the reserve. Read the full SWOT analysis
Total visitor numbers in the SRF increased by 14% between 2007/8 and 2008/9 reflecting a vibrant tourism economy that is growing primarily due to domestic travelers. However, the study demonstrated there is little being done to manage these visitors, there are no economic benefits flowing to the reserve as a result of this growth in domestic interest, and social/community benefits are very small indeed. If this were not problematic enough, environmental damage is increasing rapidly.
The SWOT analysis of the Sundarbans was developed to guide decision making on the means to develop tourism in the Sundarbans Reserve Forest in a sustainable manner. Results were broken down into the following categories.
- Information Accessibility on the Sundarbans
- Boat Transportation
- Visitor Management
- Community Benefits
- Cultural Impacts
- Conservation Awareness
- Revenue Generation
- Community Benefits
- Physical Impacts - Entire Sundarbans region
- Unmanaged Tourism - Site Specific
- Socio-cultural impacts in tourism areas
EWI will continue advising IPAC on the sustainable management of tourism in protected areas of Bangladesh in 2010.
Megan Epler Wood's blog on her work in Bangladesh
Map of Bangladesh with Sunderbans and Teknaf
Publications:August 2009: Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities & Threats (SWOT) of Tourism in the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, Bangladesh (pdf)
April 2009: Teknaf Peninsula Community-Based Ecotourism Strategy, Bangladesh (pdf)