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Rohingya camps: Deforestation takes back seat to humanitarian concerns

  • Published at 12:25 pm October 29th, 2017
  • Last updated at 12:29 pm October 29th, 2017
Rohingya camps: Deforestation takes back seat to humanitarian concerns
Burning firewood desperately by the Rohingya people of Ukhiya, Teknaf and Naikhangchhari will destroy the ecosystem of the Cox's Bazar deeply. The local residents and environmentalists' leaders expressed deep concern in this desperate deforestation which has made the green area grey and fad and asked the government to ensure everything before environmental disasters. Visiting some temporary camps in Kutupalong and Balukhali of Ukhiya and Teknaf, UNB Correspondent found that thousands of Rohingyas have been camping in the deep forests of Ukhiya-Teknaf and Naikhangchhari. Even they were building their tents in two to three kilometre deep of the forest from the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Road and fetch their firewood from the deep and fresh forest." "This huge number of Rohingya is almost burning 50,000kg of firewood for cooking every day. They are mainly relying on the forest around the area of their camps. As a result, the forests are being destroyed every day," forest department officials told UNB. Deputy Director of Environment Department of Cox's Bazar Saiful Arshad said "There is no shortage of relief to Ukhiya-Teknaf and Naikhangchhari Rohingya camps but there is a severe crisis of firewood which is going on as the number of the Rohingya people stands at 110,000 [new and old entrants] and is increasing every day." Jane Alam, a Rohingya living in the Balukhali camp, said: "We cannot collect firewood due to rain earlier. Now we are collecting and burning firewood to the stove in the morning and evening which is being collected from the forest. There is no alternative to this cutting forest to collect firewood for cooking." UNB also found that the trees and horticultural trees of the forest are burning in these stoves. Even they are regularly picking up the root of the trees which can cause mudslides. Some children were busy with the cutting of the root of the trees for their firewood, and many of them were collecting dry firewood from the deep forest. 'No Man's Land' of Tambru (Ghumdhum Border area), Boro Chhakhola Para of Naikhangchhari, Phultoli and Ashartoli all presented the same the same picture. Cox's Bazar Divisional Forest Officer (South) Mohammad Ali Kabir said, "We have to think about the availability of firewood for the Rohingya people as nature will take its revenge." Mentioning the tragic incident of three Rohingya deaths in an attack by wild elephants in the hills of Ukhiya, DFO Kabir said, "Everyone will have to think about it. Efforts should be taken to restore the damage to the hills and forests. Some individuals and organisations have distributed some kerosene stoves as the relief. But it is a little less than the requirement," he added. President of Cox's Bazar Forest and Environment Conservation Council Dipak Sharma Dipu said "It is not an easy matter to provide the firewood for the huge number of Rohingya entrants as there is a lot of demand of firewood which is increasing day by day. They are regularly meeting their needs of the firewood by cutting forests and social forestry trees.' He also said "The government and the administration should plan to provide firewood for Rohingyas including the relief. Otherwise, the way they start damaging forests, there will be an environmental disaster very soon." Ignoring the environmental disaster, Environment and Forest Minister Anwar Hossain Manju on October 25 said that 1000 acre more land will be allocated if it needed after his visit to the Kutupalong Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar's Ukhiya Upazila. "Some partial damage to the environment needed to be accepted and compromised for the sake of the Rohingya refugees." Earlier, the relief and disaster management minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya also said on Thursday (5 October) had announced the allocation of 1,000 acres forest as the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya of Cox's Bazar will be expanded increased from 3,000 acres to build 1, 50,000 sheds by the government in total to accommodate the Rohingya people there. However, the highest rate of death for environmental pollution ion happens in Bangladesh, according to a new report published on 20 October in the Lancet, a journal produced by The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. According to the report of the Refugee Relief and Rehabilitation Commission of Cox's Bazar, some 604,000 Myanmar citizens were listed as of October 24 and the influx of the Myanmar nationals into Bangladesh from Rakhine State continues.
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