In the wake of Rohingya influx and its consequences on the physical environment and ecosystem of Ukhia and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar District, the final Stakeholder Consultation on Environment Impact of Rohingya Influx, jointly organized by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was held on 08 March at CIRDAP International Auditorium.
Earlier UNDP, UN WOMEN and the Ministry of Environment and Forests did a Rapid Environment Impact Assessment covering the areas where Rohingya camps are built Ukhia and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar.
Mr. Arif Faisal, Programme Specialist and Mr. Reazuddin, Consultant, UNDP presented the key highlights of the assessment report. The study identified physical environmental impact, ecosystem impacts, gender-based impact and health related risks and proposed environmental management plan. The major environmental impacts include ground water depletion due to excessive water extraction for the camp , ground water contamination by filtrate from latrines, changes in water hydrology caused by the camps activities, deforestation and degradation of protected areas due to extraction of fuelwood, human-wildlife conflicts, etc. Feasible environmental management options and detailed long-term monitoring programmes are recommended to mitigate the environmental loss and damage from the influx.
One crosscutting mitigation measure to address the physical impacts of the influx is to provide alternative fuel and providing improved cooking stoves and/or a dedicated space for community cooking. This would improve air quality in the shelters, eliminate the need for fuelwood collection from protected areas, and remove the associated gender-based health and safety risks. Improved planning and living standards would address issues of access to potable water, sanitation and solid waste management.
Chief Guest, Mr Abdullah Al Mohsin Ahmed, Secretary-in-Charge of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, said, “The area of the Rohingya Influx overlaps with Ecologically Critical Areas that the government has invested in conserving through a series of social forestry and ecosystem restoration programmes in Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf.”
Special guest, Ms Kyoko Yokosuka, Deputy Country Director of UNDP, Bangladesh said, “The influx has made a significant impact on the environment in Cox’s Bazar and it is evident from the data presented in the report. It is our hope that this report will be a useful tool for advocacy, to policy makers and all stakeholders, that we need to start addressing the long-term consequence on an urgent basis. While it is legitimate that the international community’s focus is primarily on life-saving measures of the Rohingya community, we also need to ensure that the local community which has been generously hosting the Rohingya refugees are equally supported to cope with the situation. Reducing the negative impact of the environment needs investment now, not later.”
Mr Mohsin, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief emphasized about cost of environmental damage and preparation of investment plan for long term restoration of degraded environment and ecosystem.
More than 60 representative from relevant Ministries, line agencies, NGOs, CSO, research organizations and media joined in this consultations and provided feedback on the report. This report will be published and disclosed soon after incorporation of the feedback received from stakeholders