An eco-resort that stands apart
Cox’s Bazar is no more clamouring to be listed as one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but it attracts tourists in increasing numbers from home and abroad.
Pechar Dweep, only a 15-minute ride from Kalatoli point of Cox’s Bazar toward Himchhori, is a place of natural beauty where the waves of the sea kiss the foothills.
It is rare that someone making a trip to Cox’s Bazar should be missing out on the panoramic Himchhori.
As you venture out on the long black tarred road to Himchhori and have travelled a few kilometres with the choppy sea on your right, a bright sign on a weather-washed board “Mermaid Eco Resort”. A cluster of tiny thatched cottages must attract your attention. There you are on the threshold of an eco-resort housed on five acres.
Anyone should easily understand that the resort operators must be an environment-conscious group as one glances at the nice sign of Mermaid painted on a piece of recycled wood pegged at the rather unassuming entrance.
Anisul Huque Chowdhury, managing director, explains why he says Mermaid is an eco-resort.
“Since I began the construction of this resort in 2003, one thing I kept in mind that there must not be any harm done to the natural beauty of the place,” Chowdhury said.
He said the resort would not be put in place without the sophisticated design of Ziauddin Khan, the chairman of the resort. “We invested around Tk 4 crore to develop and build the resort. The materials used in construction were mainly old blocks of wood.”
But the authorities did not allow felling a single tree within the resort area, keeping all the trees falling within the accommodation zone also intact, he said. “Also, we planted around 40,000 saplings to make the resort greener.”
Chowdhury said the first venture was Mermaid Café in Kalatoli area, where recycled materials were used in construction and fresh organic foods were served to the customers.
“The success of that café motivated us to build a resort some distance away from the town.”
The resort owner recruited 70 percent of the staff from the locality, most of whom had earlier been struggling to make a living by poaching natural resources from the nearby hill forests.
Chowdhury said a plant recycles the waste generated at the resort. “The end of the day sees us separating the food wastes, paper and bottles for recycling.”
Food wastes are recycled to generate fertiliser that again is used in the organic farming of vegetables the resort serves to the guests.
Chowdhury said Mermaid distributed the excess organic fertilisers among the village farmers.
The waste bottles are used in the decor of the resort and mixed with other materials to make mortar used in construction, he said.
Razib Ahmed, the marketing manager of Mermaid, said the resort wanted to attract mainly those tourists who are environment-conscious.
Christopher Craig, country director of a multinational company, said he felt at home being a guest at Mermaid and was happy with the standards maintained by the resort.
“To protect the natural beauty of the countryside like Cox’s Bazar, there is no alternative to building this kind of eco-resorts,” he added.
According to Craig, Cox’s Bazar is already congested and overburdened with dense concrete structures. He said, “It is not a very good thing for eco-tourism.”
“As an environment conscious traveller, I feel Mermaid makes efforts to protect the nature against contamination,” he added.
Ria Maria who visited the resort on several occasions said: “It is the best resort in the country as far as my experience goes.” Maria said the resort did not use any air conditioners; the natural air is sufficient there and so they save energy.
“The rather simple cottages and other structures were built in a way so that the natural atmosphere remains intact there,” she added. Maria said her friends who visited the resort had the same feelings.
There was a time, when eco-tourists avoided visiting Cox’s Bazar because of the widespread pollution of the local environment and the sea. Chowdhury said: “We got a lot of tourists in the last one year who really cared about the environment and enjoyed their stay at our resort.”
Tourists who come to Cox’s Bazar are mostly residents in different cities living in tall buildings, he added. “Tourists prefer a place which is in a natural setting and far from any noise.”
“We raised Mermaid using recycled wood and other materials, not exceeding the height of the existing trees.”
Mahfuz Ahmed, manger of the resort, said since inception they had received around 10,000 guests till then. Of them, more than 40 percent were foreigners and some of them revisited the resort on a number of occasions, he added. The tourism minister, diplomats, writers and many other environment lovers visited the resort.
Talking about their future plan, Chowdhury said he plans to instal solar panels of 5KW capacity soon. “We have a plan to supply power to the local households also, as Pechar Dweep does not have any other power supply.” A central effluent treatment plant is also included in his future plan.
The resort owner is building another resort, Club Mermaid, near the existing one.