Rohingyas entering Bangladesh to flee ethnic cleansing in their homeland Rakhine State of Myanamr are facing acute shortage of cooking fuel as assistance from aid providers is not near the need which is forcing them to fell trees.
Rohingyas and local people said that the international and local aid providers were providing these hapless ethnic minority people from Myanmar with assistances like shelter, food, medication but hardly any cooking fuel.
Rohingyas said that in absence of cooking fuel supply, they needed to collect wood from forests or buy it from local market.
Because of huge demand, firewood price soared significantly in localities of Teknaf and Ukhia in Cox’s Bazar, where Rohingyas took shelter.
Many Rohingyas erected makeshift shelters in reserved forests felling trees and set up shanties on hill slopes causing destruction of about 2,500 acres of forest and now their collection of firewood continued worsening the environment scenario, local people said.
Rohingya man Abdul Karim, living in a camp at Thainkhali, said that they were getting no fuel from anyone.
‘At present, no agency is providing the community with fuel as it is flammable having high risk of fire accident in densely populated shelters,’ said International Organisation for Migration national communication officer Shirin Akhter.
Transparency International Bangladesh in its rapid assessment titled ‘Problems Related to Refuge Provided in Bangladesh to Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (Rohingya)’ on Wednesday said that hills and local forests were cut down during the erection of shelters which was affecting the local environment and biodiversity.
‘The firewood for daily cooking of food is collected from natural sources which is a huge burden to the local forests,’ it said.
Divisional forest official in Cox’s Bazar (south) Ali Kabir said that till October 2, Rohingyas made makeshift camps on 3,000 acres of for
est land in Balukhali, Kutupalang and adjacent areas.
‘They have destroyed all trees of about 2,500 acre forests for making makeshift shelters and fuel wood,’ he added.
‘We are estimating total loss as Rohingyas continue to spread to others forest lands,’ he added.
According to UN estimation on Sunday, 6,07,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh since the beginning of the new influx, what the United Nations called the world’s fastest-developing refugee emergency, on August 25.
Officials estimated that the new influx already took to 10.26 lakh the number of documented and undocumented Myanmar nationals in Bangladesh entering the country at times since 1978.
The new influx began after Myanmar security forces responded to Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’s reported attacks on August 25 by launching violence what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing.
Rohingyas continued entering Bangladesh through different points of Teknaf.
Border Guard Bangladesh 34 battalion second-in-command Major Iqbal Ahmed said that about 2,500 Rohingyas were now staying at zero line, after entering Bangladesh through Anjumanpara border.
Teknaf upazila senior fisheries officer Delwar Hossain, responsible for keeping account of new arrivals, said on Monday that over 1,390 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh through Shah Parir Dwip on Wednesday.
The meeting of parliamentary standing committee on forest and environment ministry in parliament complex on October 10 was informed that Rohingyas destroyed forest trees of Tk 151 crore for erecting makeshift shelters and collecting wood for fuel.
Committee member Yahya Chowdhury said that Rohingyas felled trees of Tk 150.87 crore, a report from forest department showed.
Ali Kabir said the amount of loss definitely has increased as number of Rohingyas increased since then
Local people said that the price of fire wood was increasing every day with the continued influx of Rohingyas. Currently a kilogram of fire wood is selling for Tk 15, which was Tk 8-10 in August.
Rice husk is selling Tk 14-16 per kg which sold for Tk 6-8 two months ago, local people said.
Needs and Population Monitoring report of IOM on October 25 said that 40 per cent of the Rohingyas living in different sites reported to have sourced fuel from local forests and 39 per cent from local markets.
Shirin said that considering the need, international agencies were thinking about distributing briquettes.
‘There are bio gas plants to run community kitchens in Leda and Kutupaong Makeshift Settlements. Agencies have plans to scale up this intervention considering the current high demand of fuel in the settlements,’ she added.
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