Saleh Noman, back from Cox’s Bazar
The government along with humanitarian agencies working in the Rohingya refugee response has undertaken priority actions to stop deforestation while providing alternative source of energy for refugees and the local community.
They are also working to improve water resource management at the refugee sites as well as the local settlements that host the refugees.
The influx of nearly one million Rohingya refugees into Cox’s Bazar district –half of whom fled within the first five weeks of the conflict in August 2017— has had a significant impact on the environment and the host population.
The land – once covered in green shrubs and forests – has been turned into highly-congested, life-saving refugee settlements for the displaced population.
Inter Sector Coordination Group source in Cox’s Bazar said, as a remedy against environmental disaster in Cox’s Bazar about 200,000 saplings have been planted by humanitarian agencies in Rohingya refugee camps, Besides by the end of this year, 240,000 households from the refugee and host community population in Cox’s Bazar will be provided with Liquefied Petroleum Gas for cooking stoves so that the forest can be protected in the area.
The Energy and Environment Technical Working Group of ISCG source said, Rohingya refugees collect 700 tons of firewood every day, resulting in the disappearance of 2,000 hectares of forest land in the past one year.
He expressed concern that the entire forest land of Cox’s Bazar is likely disappear by 2019, if the current rate of deforestation continues unabated.
Refugees are forced to gather firewood for cooking. This affects the environment, increases risks, especially for women and children often tasked to collect firewood from the forests, in addition to leading to tensions with the host community.
Mohammad Abul Kalam, refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner in Cox’s Bazar told Bangladesh Post, ‘The ongoing initiatives to protect the environment include expanding safe alternative energy use and promotion, including scaling up the provision of LPG cylinders and stoves. Developing sustainable water sources for household consumption and agricultural activities, initiating reforestation and land rehabilitation, undertaking solid waste and faecal sludge management, establishing common bamboo quality standards and control procedures to avoid overharvesting.
James Gomez, Regional Director of Caritas Bangladesh a humanitarian agency working in camps to reduce environmental impact said that his organization has distributed saplings to 27,000 households at Kutupalong Mega Camp. The saplings include several regional varieties.
Before distribution, the refugees were provided instructions on how to plant and nurture the saplings. Furthermore, the beneficiaries received 450 taka in two instalments for taking care of the plants,” he added.
Setara Begum a resident of Kutupalong Camp 4, said, “This is for the first time we are receiving saplings from any organization. I am looking forward to planting them and I will take care of them as my own.”
James Gomez said, we distribute to 12,000 beneficiaries LPG stoves and cylinders as well as one refilling of the cylinder. A total of four refilling will be given to all the beneficiaries who first received the LPG stoves and cylinders. In addition to the previous beneficiaries, another 10,000 new beneficiaries will be given LPG stoves and cylinders.”
Before distribution, the beneficiaries were provided with usage and safety training to use the LPG efficiently and safely. On top of that, the expert’s team frequently visits the households to ensure that they are using stoves and cylinders effectively.