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20 February, 2020 00:00 00 AM
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Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar

Tk 2,500cr forest resources, biodiversity ‘destroyed’

Anisur Rahman Khan, Dhaka
Tk 2,500cr forest resources, biodiversity ‘destroyed’

Rohingya refugees have destroyed about Tk 2,500-crore forest resources and biodiversity in the Cox’s Bazar area, according to an estimate by officials of the Bangladesh Forests Department (BFD). The Rohingyas have destroyed around 8,000 acres of natural forests and social forestry by building houses and felling trees for fuel, putting the environment and ecology under great threat, the officials say.

Expansion of the old Kutupalong camp has also blocked the only corridor used by endangered Asian elephants as migration routes and trapped about 45 elephants on the western side of the camp. Several international aid agencies, local government bodies, and NGOs have also been constructing infrastructure and other activities around the forest areas without informing the forest department, sources told The Independent.

During the period between August and October 2017, about 750,000 forcibly displaced Rohingya people moved from Myanmar to the neighbouring border areas of Cox’s Bazar, where they joined the existing Rohingya communities, bringing the total to 11 lakh, one of the largest concentrations of refugees in the world.

“We’ve submitted a primary assessment regarding the destruction of forests, including biodiversity, natural forests, and afforestation, in Cox’s Bazar. We’ve estimated that forest resources worth Tk. 2,500 crore have been destroyed so far by the Rohingyas,” Humayun Kabir, divisional forest officer in Cox’s Bazar (south), told this correspondent.

He said different organisations were active on the forest land around the Rohingya camp without informing the forest department.  “A 10-member committee, led by Prof. Kamal Hossain, who is a teacher of forestry at Chittagong University, had been formed in October last year to assess the losses of biodiversity and forests in Cox’s Bazar. The committee is yet to start its activities due to some official problems,” he said in reply to a query.

He also said the critical biodiversity areas in Cox’s Bazar—Teknaf Wildlife Sanctuary, Himchhari National Park, and Inani National Park—face grave risks due to high level of human intervention following the huge Rohingya influx. Tens of thousands of trees  have been cut down to set up camps, make furniture, and cook food for the Rohingya people, he added. The massive Rohingyas influx has caused great socio-economic and environmental damages, he noted.

“Soil erosion and landslides are already common in the area, affecting water resources, irrigation, and groundwater reserves. But now, local biodiversity, including marine resources, acoustic environment, and air quality, is being degraded at an unprecedented level,” Kabir said.

Experts, however, suggest that the Rohingyas be provided with alternative fuel to reduce the pressure on the forests. Planting fast-growing trees in fallow and other unused land in the locality could resolve the firewood problem, they say.

Nearly two years after the start of the Rohingya influx, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in association with the the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh (PRI) and the Cox’s Bazar administration, conducted a study titled ‘Impacts of the Rohingya Refugee Influx on Host Communities’ last year.

The study finds the impact on the socio-economic effect on host communities, covering prices, wages and poverty incidence, public service, livelihood, public goods delivery, social safety net, and social cohesion. Even criminal activities have increased around the camp areas as many Rohingya people are involved in committing crimes. The Myanmar government is yet to take any positive initiative to take back their citizens.

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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.

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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