Over the last three years, the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf have been telling us many stories of failures, successes and uncertainties.
These camps are a painful symbol of Myanmar’s atrocities against its own citizens, making them stateless. The government of Bangladesh, the United Nations (UN) agencies and their partners, and numerous donors, however, have managed to offer these 1.1 million people shelter, food, water, sanitation facilities, health services, protection from violence and trafficking, as well as education, energy supply, and safety from natural hazards. However, these 34 refugee camps still remain a failed story of humanity, full of uncertainties around return of the Rohingyas, including their 438,000 children, to Myanmar.
The Rohingya refugee crisis not only hurts our dignity as humans, it has also made a deep scar on Bangladesh’s efforts towards environmental conservation. According to a report by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of Bangladesh, as of early October last year, the overall ecological damage of this refugee crisis cost about USD 285 million. Almost 60 percent of this damage was due to the loss of biodiversity. Other losses include destruction of natural and planted trees as well as uprooting of trees. That report also noted that the refugee settlements occupy about 2,500 hectares of forest land, while another 750 hectares of forest were destroyed from firewood collection by the refugees.
Haseeb Md Irfanullah