The loss of forests and the ecological damage caused by almost one million refugees has taken a toll
ByBertil Lintner, Chiang Mai 22 April 2019
Bangladesh is paying a heavy price for hosting hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.
According to an article on the Bangladesh Chronicle’s website on April 20, the country has already lost US$211 million worth of forest resources in the Ukhia and Teknaf areas near Cox’s Bazar, where camps have been built and new roads cut through previously uninhabited areas.
The Bangladesh Chronicle quotes an October 2018 study by the UNDP which shows that more than 26,000 hectares of forest have disappeared.
Bamboo and timber have been used to build huts in the camps and the refugees are using 6,800 tonnes of firewood a month because international agencies have not provided them with alternative fuel for cooking.
The current situation has been assessed in a recent Forest Department report compiled by Bangladesh chief conservator of forests, Mohammad Shafiul Alam Chowdhury.
Apart from the actual loss of trees, he has also assessed ecological damage, including an increase in carbon emissions, a fall of oxygen and the impact on animals.
The report also expressed concerns about bigger losses in the future unless the felling of trees and cutting of hills were not controlled.
The Bangladesh Chronicle quoted a man from Ukhia as saying the place has become hotter after the camps were constructed and the forests cut down.
Bangladesh authorities are now considering conducting an in-depth study on the overall impact on the environment that the presence of nearly one million refugees has caused.
They live in crowded camps near the Myanmar border, and despite assurances by Myanmar authorities, it is not likely that any significant number of refugees will be repatriated within the foreseeable future.