Rohingya Influx Brings ‘Environmental Catastrophe’: Bangladesh Officials

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Newly arrived Rohingya work to build shelters after clearing a hill at Kutupalong, Teknaf. Oct. 9, 2017.
Newly arrived Rohingya work to build shelters after clearing a hill at Kutupalong, Teknaf. Oct. 9, 2017.

An unprecedented influx of Rohingya refugees into southeastern Bangladesh is putting the ecologically fragile region on the brink of an environmental disaster, officials and analysts warn.

As many as seven reserve forests, totaling about 2,500 acres, have been wiped out in just over two months in Cox’s Bazar district as incoming Rohingya refugees cut down trees for firewood and to construct makeshift shelters, area forest officer Ali Kabir said.

“Make no mistake, this is an environmental catastrophe,” he told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

As many as 607,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to southeastern Bangladesh, after the Myanmar army and security forces launched an offensive against the predominantly Muslim minority in response to attacks by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgents in Rakhine state on Aug. 25, according to the latest estimates from U.N. officials.

With 400,000 Rohingya already settled along Bangladesh’s southeast border before the latest exodus began, the number of refugees in the region has doubled the population of nearly 500,000 Bangladeshi people living in the region where about 15 refugee camps and settlements are situated, Kabir said.

“They have occupied 1,625 acres of forestland in Ukhia and 875 acres of forestland in Teknaf and have chopped down more than one million trees to make way for their huts,” Kabir said, adding that the refugees were cutting hundreds of trees a day to use as firewood for cooking.

As of last week, forest resources valued at about 1.5 billion Bangladeshi taka (U.S. $18 million) had been destroyed to accommodate the latest influx of refugees, according to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Hussain said his department initially tried to stop the refugees from chopping down trees.

“Some Rohingya attacked three forest officials who attempted to discourage them,” he said.

“The only solution is that Myanmar takes back the Rohingya population. Of course, that may take a long time. Until then, we really can’t do much. Once they leave, we can start replanting trees,” he added.

Saif-ul-Isma Asrab, assistant director of the Directorate of Environment, agreed.

“If we really wish to control the situation, we will need to relocate the refugees to another region at the earliest. There is no other option,” Asrab told BenarNews.

‘What’s so bad about cutting trees?’

Biswajit Sen, a local environmental activist, said the blatant disregard for nature was not only harming wildlife, but was also posing a serious threat to the region’s human population.

“Due to the rampant use of fossil fuel, Cox’s Bazar is already at a risk of climate change. The region often routinely witnesses either extreme rainfall or extreme drought conditions. Low-lying areas have already been swallowed by the sea,” Sen told BenarNews.

With the fresh Rohingya arrivals denuding more than 200 hills that once teemed with trees, the risks have increased significantly, he said.

“As a result of extreme deforestation, the sea level will rise further and swallow more land. Deforestation may also result in high tides, heavy rainfall and landslides,” Sen warned.

Abdur Shakur, 50, a Rohingya who arrived from Rakhine last month with seven members of his family, admitted to cutting many trees to make place for his hut constructed from bamboo and tarpaulin on a hill in Balukhali.

“Do you think the [Myanmar] army bothered about the trees when they were setting our village on fire? Killing people is bad, burning entire villages is wrong. What’s so bad about cutting trees? Everyone here is doing it,” he told BenarNews.

Rampant deforestation also increased the threat of animal attacks in the region that is home to a wildlife sanctuary.

At least six Rohingya refugees, including children, have been killed in separate wild elephant attacks near the Balukhali refugee camp over the last two months, forest officer Abdul Mannan said.

“Elephants almost always use the same path to move back and forth. They identify their path by the trees around. When you cut down the trees, chances of the elephants losing their way and entering areas populated by humans is more. This is precisely why such incidents are occurring frequently,” Mannan told BenarNews.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Comments (2)


The Bangladeshi Government should move back those so called Rohingya Bengali to their native Chittagong region. The Chittagong Hill Tracts was not belonged to Chittagonian so called Rahingya Bengalis. The Chittagong Hill Tracts was for native Buddhist Rakhine, Marma and other native peoples.
Peoples do not know there’s the Chittagong Hill Tracts between Rakhine State and Bengali Chittagong State. They thought the Bengali peoples come to live in the Rakhine Staste were nothing strange. They do not know the history of Burma and its neighbors. Burma had lost its western territories to India and East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Thanks to the British Government. The Burma had lost the Chittagong Hill Tracts to East Pakistan and the Manipur to India. The British Government has used phony agreement with Manipur ruler and the Manipur to stay with India after independence. Peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts were celebrated and fly Burmese Flag when they heard Burma will be independence because they think the Chittagong Hill Tracts will be independence with Burma.
Now the Naga ethnic was fighting for independence from India. The Naga peoples are living peacefully in Burma side.
Also the Bangladeshi Government and UN Human Rights Commission must take action for to stop Bangladeshi soldiers back Bengali Muslims killing Buddhist Marma, Rakhine and Chakma peoples for their fertile farm lands in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Last year, 1,700 families from the Chittagong Hill Tracts had fled to Burma because they were afraid of Bengali soldiers and Bengali Muslim settlers from other parts of Bangladesh. Actually, ethnic cleansing was secretly operating by Bangladeshi Army in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. If you do not believe it and then you can get information from exiled Buddhist Jumma organizations in UK and the families fled from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Rakhine State. These 1,700 families who fled to Rakhine State from CHT were looking after by Burmese Government because the Burmese Government recognized them as former Burmese citizens. The Bangladeshi Government too recognized the illegal immigrant so called Rohingya Bengali peoples from Rakhine State as its former citizens and restore their citizenship.

Nov 01, 2017 03:01 PM


from San Francisco

The so-called Rohingya are squatting in Myanmar.
They are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh due to
over population,resource scarcity in Bangladesh.
They are genetically identical to Bangladesh.

The so-called Rohingya are 100% Bengali.
Bangladesh and Bengali speak the same dialect.
The root of the problem is Bangladesh’s overpopulation fueled by lack of birth control. Bangladesh is the real culprit and is encouraging its surplus population to flood the neighboring countries including Myanmar.
Myanmar is only a scapegoat. Instead, the attention and international pressure should be directed to the Bangladeshi government.

Oct 30, 2017 08:45 PM





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