Overuse of resources by Rohingyas threatens forests in Ukhiya, Teknaf

UkhiyaNews desk::
The forests in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas of Cox’s Bazar will perish by 2019 if Rohingya habitation continues to overuse natural resources in those areas, experts said today.

“Around 1.94 lakh Rohingya families residing in Ukhiya and Teknaf burn almost 2, 250 tonnes of firewood daily for cooking and they collect them from the nearby forests,” Barkotullah Maruf, assistant director of COAST trust, a local NGO, said while talking to the reporters at a press conference in Dhaka.Around 60% forest land in Ukhiya and 41% in Teknaf will perish very soon if the present situation continues, Maruf said adding that the natural ecology of the area has already collapsed due to overuse of natural resources.

COAST Trust (Coastal Association for Social Transformation) and Cox’s Bazar CSO-NGO Forum jointly organised the press conference at Jatiya Press Club around 11:00am.

“According to the higher officials of the government, forest land as big as four football grounds are being destroyed everyday for cooking food for the Rohingya families” Maruf said.

The natural water resources around the Rohingya camps have become polluted by human waste, the assistant director of COAST said.

“The 21 canals, chhoras and jhiris around the Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf areas have already been polluted for excessive use” Maruf said adding that locals used to depend on those for water.

Unplanned installation of deep tube-wells also impacted the underground water scenario. A survey by COAST Trust on 50 blocks of four Rohingya camps showed that among the 300 tube-wells 70% does not work.

Special fund is needed for restoring environment and the natural resources in the area, COAST Trust said.

“A part of the international relief money allocated for the Rohingya refugees needs to be used for the restoration purpose,” COAST added.

Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (Bapa) Cox’s Bazar district committee also spoke at the conference.

Presence of radioactive elements above the normal level was found in waters both above and under the ground in the two upazilas, Fazlul said in his statement while referring to a hydro-geological research by DR Ashraf Ali Siddiquee, the head of the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering at Kabi Nazrul Islam University.

The salt level was also found to be higher than usual in the water of the areas, Fazlul added.

“The water will dry up in the areas very soon if nothing is done to prevent this” Fazlul concluded.