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2 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Impact of Rohingya settlements in Bangladesh

Sakib Hasan
Impact of Rohingya settlements in Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s humanitarian assistance to displaced Rohingyas is unquestionably the noblest ever philanthropic move that has been acclaimed globally. As a neighbouring country with cultural ties spanning over the centuries, it was the most welcome decision made by Bangladesh given the worst humanitarian plight of the Rohingyas. Now the host country’s tangible plight and palpable concerns in the changed context after arrival and settlements of the Rohingyas need to be addressed urgently. Like the spin-off effects occurred in other countries in similar situations, Bangladesh has begun to feel the cumulative pressure in the barometer scale regarding demography, economy, environment, ecology, landscape, nature and above all social security.

Being utterly impoverished and marginalized losing all means of livelihood, these helpless refugees quite naturally will have recourse to any ways either fair or unfair out of desperation to survive. We can hardly deny the universal fact that being caught up in the similar predicament, we ourselves must commit even the worst possible crimes just for survival. With their temporary rehabilitation at different pockets mainly within Ukhia of Cox’s Bazar and also other scattered upazillas of Cox’s Bazar, some obvious shifts in the regular dynamics of the settlement enclaves have already been reported. For instance, the typical landscape features around the Rohingya concentration areas demonstrate clearly some visible manifestations like flattening of the hilly tracts, cutting down of trees at random, air and water pollution, odour pollution, noise pollution etc. As the direct impact of these increased anthropogenic activities and operations, environmental sanity, ecological balance and bio-diversity of Cox’s Bazar are being seriously threatened.

Specially, when these negative manifestations take place in the landmark zone serving the lifeline to our tourism industry, it is indisputably a matter of serious concern for all Bangladeshis. With the settlement of the huge bulk of the Rohingya refugees, the demographic balance of Cox’s Bazar has been seriously disturbed and destabilized. The inhabitants of Cox’s Bazar have already started to feel the pressure and its cumulative effects on their everyday life and living. The grievances, complaints and inconveniences of the local inhabitants may be ignored at least on the humanitarian grounds just for the time being. But so far as the overseas tourists and even the internal tourists are concerned, each passing day with the displaced Rohinghyas in Cox’s Bazar matters the most at least from the tourism point of view let alone other considerations. The core urge of the tourists’ mindset is to seek for a noise-free tranquil place since the tourists basically roam a spot to relax. And where there is noise there is no rest and relaxation. Once tourists are discouraged to visit Cox’s Bazar, revenues in tourism sector will fall sharply. Thus, displaced Rohingyas’ stay in Cox’s Bazar for a long duration will unmistakably contribute to losing gradually the pristine tourists hub of Bangladesh.

It is certainly a matter of great concern that Bangladesh is yet to submit the name of Cox’s Bazar in the tentative list in the category of natural interest. Being the longest sea-beach of the world, Cox’s Bazar can indisputably claim on the priority basis to be included in the tentative list in the category of natural interest for the final recognition and declaration as the World Natural Heritage Site. Undoubtedly, the responsibility of nominating Cox’s Bazar in the tentative list primarily lies with the Tourism Ministry. Once it is included in the list, it will be the shared responsibility of the international community to lend their voice in protecting and preserving the pristine and primordial purity of Cox’s Bazar. The entrusted responsibility of a particular body cannot be put on other’s shoulders. Almost all will agree with me on the point that we practically have projected a rather low profile of Cox’s Bazar from the tourism standpoint before the international community. Definitely, Cox’s Bazar needs highest possible global exposure on every claim for its unique natural features.

The government of Bangladesh is virtually in a dilemma as to what to do with the Rohinghya issue. On completely humanitarian ground, I firmly believe that not even a single Bangladeshi citizen opts for pushing the helpless innocent Rohinghyas into the middle point of volcanic eruptions. On the other hand, the tourist value and importance of Cox’s Bazar have to be kept intact at any cost. Caught in this dilemma, it is undoubtedly the biggest ever challenge for Bangladesh to find a way out without affecting the interest of any of the two issues at all. With a view to making a safe passage out of this dilemma, Bangladesh has to engage the highest potentialities of her diplomatic genius. We must remember that in some way or the other unfortunately Rohinghya problem has by now become our problem. It is even more practically true that nobody will willingly come forward to solve this problem. We have to make others to contribute on their parts to shoot out this problem all out and integrated diplomatic efforts.

Relocation of the displaced Rohinghyas from Cox’s Bazar to other zones with relatively low-key importance has to be taken as the priority issue and has to be dealt without any further delay. Prior to repatriation of the Rohinghyas from Bangladesh, they must be removed from the present concentration areas of highly sensitive tourist rendezvous Cox’s Bazar. In this respect, an isolated location away from our native settlements may be a better option. I am making this suggestion thinking the risk factors involved in the intermingling between two contrary streams- the secured native people and the displaced and insecure Rohinghya refugees. Earlier, it has already been hinted that displaced people are inevitably desperate. Being always haunted by despair and hopelessness, these refugees are quite naturally very vulnerable to crimes. In the event of intermingling, the existing crime statistics may rise vertically. Most alarmingly, the extremist groups as well as various crime syndicates may exploit and manipulate them in all possible ways. At its worst, the internal peace and stability of the country may be seriously endangered as the direct result of this intermingling.

Whatever may be the challenges, chances are, of course, still there to devise the ways and means to find a safe outlet out of this socio-economic impasse of grave concern once we put concerted and sustainable efforts in the right direction. Still, it is far from enough to depend on our local efforts to hammer out an enduring solution of this mega voltage human crisis.

Continuous and increasing involvement of regional and global bodies and powerhouses is a must for compelling the typically elusive and evasive Myanmar to come to terms with us. The track records regarding this thorny issue virtually burden us with the voluminous statistics of dilly-dallying tactics adopted by Myanmar in dealing with us. Even then, an acceptable deal with Myanmar regarding Rohingya repatriation is still possible providing how much we will be able to engage and involve the gear-moving regional and global powers in the issue through our integrated global standard diplomacy.   

The writer, Assistant Professor of English Bogra Cantonment Public School & College, is a contributor to The Independent. E-mail: shasanbogra1@gmail.com

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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