Currently, more than one million Rohingyas are living in the southeastern district
Locals in Cox’s Bazar have been hit hard by a huge number of Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh following a military crackdown in Myanmar.
The vast Rohingya population has seriously impacted social and economic sectors of Cox’s Bazar.
Refugees have occupied the homesteads and arable lands of the locals. Local’s education is disrupted and the forestland is gradually diminishing.
According to sources, more than one million Rohingyas are currently living in the south-eastern district. Of them, about 700,000 Rohingyas entered the district last year while 500,000 others have lived there for many years.
Under these circumstances, the Rohingyas have become the majority of the population in Cox’s Bazar—leaving the locals in the minority.
These Rohingyas have occupied about 6,000 acres of forest land in Ukhiya and Teknaf.
“The Rohingyas have occupied all forest lands and hills in the area,” said Kabir Ahmed, who has been living in Ukhiya’s Baluchhara for the last two decades.
Shamsul Alam, a first year student of Ukhiya Degree College, said several thousands of Rohingyas sheltered in a forest land, located next to their residence.
The Rohingyas also occupied huge arable lands, he said.
“We had five acres of land but the Rohingyas have grabbed everything.”
Local schools and madrasas are used as camps for: law enforcement agencies, medical teams, relief centres, and other purposes. This is why the number of students has declined—which worries the guardians.
Kutupalong Government Primary School’s Headmaster Habibur Rahman said most of the classrooms are used to provide the Rohingyas with humanitarian services.
“A medical team has been set up in a classroom and two classrooms are used as barracks for policemen and Ansar members. Additionally, cooking ingredients are stored at one corner of the school, and a stove has also been set up in the field to cook for Rohingyas,” he said.
“We have provided shelter to Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds. But we also need to survive,” Ukhiya Degree College Principal Fazlul Karim said.
He said they have left the college field and many classrooms so that they can be used as store rooms and other services for Rohingyas.
“So, one can infer how much of an education the students are getting.”
Destruction of forests
The Rohingyas have occupied a 10-km-long stretch of forest near Kutupalong market. They emptied the forests by cutting the trees and razed hills to establish a place to stay.
Due to the Rohingyas, the locals have not only lost their lands but also places designated to shelter their domestic animals.
The Rohingyas have occupied 4,000 acres of land though the government has designated 2,000 acres for them.
Local businessman Bashir Ullah said the Rohingyas have taken everything away.
“I have four domestic animals but they cannot graze as there is no place.”
Local youth, Helaluddin, said the Rohingyas not only occupied their homesteads but also cut down all the trees and hills.
The local forest department seems helpless as the Rohingyas keep cutting hills one after another.
Md Ali Kabir, divisional forest officer of Cox’s Bazar (south) forest department, said the Rohingyas have grabbed 10,000 acres of land in Ukhiya range.
The old Rohingyas [who have been living in the area for many years] occupied 6,000 acres of land and the new ones claimed 4,000 more acres of land, he said.
Due to the influx of Rohingyas, prices of essentials have shot up—severely impacting poor locals.
However, the government, along with a number of private organizations, has started providing assistance to the locals affected by the influx of Rohingyas.
Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain said the government has extended its cooperation to local residents.
Recently it distributed rice, lentils, clothes, and other essentials among the locals.
“The government is taking care of the locals in the district, including the residents living in and around Rohingya camps,” he added.