Saving the Topiary: The impact on nature following the Rohingya influx

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In an attempt to escape genocide and unspeakable crimes against humanity taking place in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, an estimated 947,000 Rohingyas have fled their homes and taken shelter in Refugee camps in Ukhia and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. With the population of Ukhia and Teknaf surpassing 1,418,760 collectively, the host community has now become the minority, comprising 33% of the total population. This Rohingya influx has led to, among a plethora of social and cultural impacts, a series of environmental pitfalls, especially in terms of the forest. According to recent reports, a minimum of 2,250 tons of firewood is burnt for cooking purposes alone, while a total of 5,800 acres of forestland are occupied for the refugee camps. The hills surrounding the areas have become sparse due to deforestation, administering a threat of deadly landslides during the rainy season. 

The following photographs were taken at the refugee camps spanning across Ukhia and Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh:

A pile of firewood and logs can be found upon entering the refugee camps located at Ukhia’s Balukhali. Each bundle is then sold for Tk. 200.
Brick pathways are being built in order to make the journey from one hill to the other easier during the monsoon months.
Kutupalong refugee camps are located near the Ukhia-Teknaf highway, spanning across approximately seven kilometers of land.
The small houses for the Rohingyas are located across almost every inch of the hills. Many NGOs have provided safe water and sanitation.
The men of the refugee households have to travel to hills far away at least twice a week to collect firewood.
The children are often involved in the process of collecting firewood as well.
A hilltop view of the Kutupalong camp. Ponds and canals have dried up, while bridges were built over them for easier means of traveling. Some men can be seen carrying logs of firewood and heading home in the distance.

Photographs by Din M Shibly

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