Parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change chairman Saber Hossain Chowdhury said that the beach town Cox’s Bazar was facing all the typical environmental hazards that the emerging towns in Bangladesh were facing with two acute crises specific to it — deforestation and hill cutting.
Deforestation became acute with the influx of seven lakhs Rohingya from Myanmar to avoid genocide in 2017.
More than 7,00,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh after fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by the Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017.
The latest Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.
Saber Hossain said that the parliamentary standing committee could not interfere in all matters pertaining to the agencies concerned, but could recommend the agencies to check pollution and curb activities which would deteriorate the environment.
Beside the Rohingya influx, the waste management and unplanned development of the town gave one a typical picture no different from the other towns across the country, he observed.
They have no solid waste management system, no treatment facility for sewerage and, additionally, water supply facilities were not developed accordingly, he continued.
He said that ground water level in Cox’s Bazar deteriorated alarmingly so the committee told the concerned agencies to check the issue not only for the Rohingya people but also the host community. The host people are the ultimate victims of the situation.
He said that the government was talking to the agencies to find out all the possible technological and other necessary measures to minimise the environmental hazard created by the Rohingya people who themselves were victims of a humanitarian crisis.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury said that they had made a list of the hotels in Cox’s Bazar that were being built without much thought to the crises in hand and geographical character.
‘Cox’s Bazar Development Authority should check such unplanned development,’ he said, adding that the committee would recommend them to take step.
Tamarisk and mangrove forest restoration was one of the priority and some initiatives have been taken by the government, he added.
‘We have a plan for restoration but need supports from other agencies,’ he said.
The forest department came into being to address this very issue in the meantime and hoped that the coastal forest would help the town to protect from sea storms, he concluded.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Interview