Ronhingya influx takes toll on environment

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“We have made our settlements by flattening hill slopes and clearing bush and cutting down tress. We don’t take any permission”

People walk in a field in front of Balukhali Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar yesterday. Bangladesh will use troops to deliver foreign aid to the border town that has been overwhelmed by Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar. AFP photo

Publication Date: 16 September, 2017 00:00 00 AM 
Media: The Independent
Original Link: Ronhingya influx takes toll on environment
E-paper Link: Ronhingya influx takes toll on environment

Within a span of three weeks, over 400,000 Rohingyas have taken shelter in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban district. The fresh arrivals are taking shelter on hill slopes by digging the earth to make the ground plain and cutting down tress. In the process, croplands are being damaged. Some are even taking shelter in the reserved forest area of Balukhali. Local people are worried. Some of them said if the Rohingyas do not settle down in a planned way, it will take its toll on the environment. The Rohingyas are also clearing the forest to make their settlement.

“We have made our settlements by flattening hill slopes and clearing bush and cutting down tress. We do not take permission from anyone. We heard the government owns this land. As there is no space at registered and unregistered camps, we are making our settlement as we can,” Abul Hossain, a Rohingya refugee, told The Independent.

He was supported by Nur Mohammad. The two are among fresh arrivals of Rohingyas from Tangbazar in Mungdaw.

Visiting Balukhali, Tangkhali and Palongkahli, it was found that Rohingyas are making new settlements in a haphazard manner. No official is around to guide them to build makeshift shelters. This is certain to impact the environment for a long time.

It is also true that after an arduous journey, it is impossible for them to wait for direction to build makeshift shelters. Under the circumstances, there is a possibility of outbreak of diseases like cholera, diarrhea and rashes.

There is also a severe crisis of sanitation and water. Owing to open defecation, there is a stink all along the Cox’s Bazar to Teknaf road.

“Once there were forests at Whykong and Balukhali areas. Now there are no forests, only makeshift shelters of Rohingyas. They also destroyed all the hills in the area. They should be kept within a specific enclosure. Their makeshift shelters should be fenced,” said Reazual Karim, chief executive officer (CEO) of COAST, an NGO.

“With stool mixing with water, there is an outbreak of diarrhea, cholera and pneumonia in the whole area. Children are being affected,” he added.

“It is true that due to open defecation, the environment is under threat. Some NGOs are working to manage sanitation for the newly arrived Rohingyas. It will take some time to complete it,” said Khaled Mahmud, additional district magistrate of Cox’s Bazar district.

“We asked the authorities to build makeshift shelters for the Rohingyas by keeping the original shape of hills. We have also given instructions to be careful about the environment,” he added.

Locals said since there is no sanitation facilities, the Rohingyas are defecating in the open. Therefore, both sides of the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf highway has turned into a place for human defecation.

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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