Sunday, September 23, 2018

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees damaged Tk 1.5bn Bangladesh forest, govt says

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-10-11 02:00:18 BdST

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees are cleaning bushes on a hill at Palongkhali in Ukhia, Cox's Bazar to build new shelters. Photo: muhammad mostafigur rahman

The newly arrived Rohingya refugees have cost Bangladesh more than Tk 1.5 billion worth of forests, according to a report by the Ministry of Environment.

The ministry submitted the account of the damage caused by the forcibly displaced Myanmar people to the parliamentary standing committee on the ministry on Tuesday.

It says hills, water bodies and beach in Cox's Bazar also suffered environmental damage due to the Rohingya exodus from violence-torn Rakhine State of Myanmar.

The parliamentary committee, fearing environmental disaster due to the Rohingyas, made some recommendations.

Its Chairman Hasan Mahmud told reporters after a meeting the government has sheltered the Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds. They are also getting sufficient relief materials.

"But they don't have any fuel. That's why they are collecting the fuel from the forests. This is serverly damaging the environment," he said.

He said the Rohingyas were cutting off trees in Teknaf. "Only the Department of Forest has submitted an account of over Tk 1.5 billion loss. The total environmental damage would be larger," he said.

The former environment minister also blamed the Rohingyas for the 'collapse' of tourism sector in the resort town. "Cox's Bazar is in no condition to welcome tourists. Hills, water bodies are being damaged at an alarming rate."

He said the ministry has been asked to assess the other environmental damage and submit another report in the next meeting.

Committee member Tipu Sultan said it recommended providing the Rohingyas with stoves in order to save fuel and reduce cutting of woods.

"This will reduce the rate of wood cutting by 50 percent," he said and added the committee proposed fresh forestation in the areas damaged by the Rohingyas.