DHAKA (Reuters Life!) - Bangladesh may have been beset by food shortages and floods, but locals are taking heart as two of its natural wonders top a new list of the world’s most amazing scenery.
Southeastern Cox’s Bazar beach — believed by many to be the world’s longest natural sandy stretch — beat out 200 other nominations to top an online public poll for the globe’s “New 7 Wonders of Nature”.
The country’s southwestern Sundarbans forest, home to the endangered Royal Bengal tiger and the world’s largest mangrove forest, is number two in the competition that has drawn more than 100 million votes from around the world.
Bringing such hidden treasures to global attention is part of the goal of “New7Wonders” (http://www.new7wonders.com), a Switzerland-based nonprofit, said Founder and President Bernard Weber.
“So many breathtakingly beautiful, natural places are still quite unknown to many,” Weber said when he announced the shortlist of 77 contenders for the top seven.
“We are discovering together the incredible beauty and variety of our planet.”
Cox’s Bazaar locals now hope the 120 km unbroken stretch of sand that lies 400km (250 miles) south of the capital Dhaka will make it into the record books by 2010, when a winner is chosen.
While an accolade will be nice, tourism will be the real winner, said army officer Lieutenant Colonel Anisur Rahman, who is involved in one of at least 15 beautification projects currently underway in Cox’s Bazaar.
Building an 80km long Marine Drive road, which will snake alongside the seashore giving views of the beach, Rahman said the developments would allow more people to visit.
“We are developing this road and we are developing the seashore so that tourists can be attracted,” the Lieutenant Colonel said.
Made up of a chain of sandy hills that run parallel to the waters of the Bay of Bengal, the beach’s towering cliffs and colorful ancient pagodas and Hindu temples draw thousands of visitors.
Warm shark-free waters, waterfalls, a game park, tribal villages and a coral island in nearby Saint Martin add to its charm.
Visitors who have already discovered the sands rave about its beauty.
“I think this Cox’s Bazaar is a very natural sight, so as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, I think this has a good opportunity,” said one tourist, who gave the name of Jennifer.
Editing by Gillian Murdoch