Dhaka, Sept 18 (UNB) – Some 4300 acres of hills and forests were cut down to make temporary shelters for Rohingyas and ensure facilities and cooking fuel for them in Ukhia and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar threatening the biodiversity of the ecologically critical areas of the country, says a new report of the United Nations.
Some of the key impacts are likely to become irreversible if measures are not taken immediately, the report said.
Since the influx in August 2017, coupled with the host community and Rohingyas from past influxes, the crisis-hit population is now almost 1.5 million in Cox’s Bazar, creating a massive pressure on the already dilapidated environment there which still remains significantly underfunded, according to the report.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women with the support from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change jointly carried out the study titled ‘Environmental Impact of Rohingya Influx.
The report was unveiled at a high-level discussion here on Tuesday.
Environment and Forests Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud attended the launching ceremony as the chief guest.
UNDP Bangladesh Sudipto Mukerjee and Country Representative, UN Women, Bangladesh Shoko Ishikawa were, among others, present.
The report highlighted the critical impacts of one of the world’s biggest influx of above 700,000 Rohingyas on the environment of Cox’s Bazar and recommended measures for migration, restoration and conversation.
Of the total 1502 hectares of forests, about 793 hectares have been encroached, said the report.
Around 3000-4000 acres (1200-1600 ha) of hilly land in Teknaf-Ukhia Himchari watershed area have been cleared of vegetation.
Identifying the encroachment as the key cause, the report said nearly 6,800 tonnes of fuel wood are collected each month and each of the Rohingya families use on average 60 culms of bamboo to construct their temporary residences at the top and slopes of hills.
Due to the indiscriminate hill cutting to provide shelters to the Rohingyas, the terrain of the hills has lost their natural setting, causing a potential risk of landslides.
The report also found the thousands of shallow tube-wells dug as threats to the aquifers. Air pollution has risen due to increased vehicular traffic and smoke from firewood burned by refugees.
Polythene bags and plastic bottles are all piling up in various parts of the area due to lack of recycling system.
The study addressed environmental and related gender-based issues and health risks due to Rohingya influx.
The UN system has stepped up with solutions like alternative fuel, solid waste management and reforestation but the current investment is not adequate. It needs sustainable solutions and long-term efforts for restoration and conservation of critically degraded ecosystem.
Minister Anisul Islam said Bangladesh has demonstrated its natural hospitality and responsibility as a caring nation.
However, the influx has made a significant impact on the environment in Cox’s Bazar. “I’m urging all, including the UNDP and other partners, to priorities the conservation of degraded ecosystem and environment. The government is ready to extend its support to restore the environment.”
Sudipto Mukerjee said it will take a long time to fix the problem but that does not mean they need to wait long. “We need to act now. We also need innovations. One thing is very clear that this is not a simple problem, not even offers a simple solution.”
He said they need to look at the whole district and think of the host community, too. “It was the host community who opened the door. We must at least not forget them in the process.”
Mukerjee said the problem is putting immense pressure on scarce natural resources in the area, resulting in degraded natural forests, barren hills and water crisis.
“This situation demands immediate investments in restoring the environment and ecosystem as part of the government of Bangladesh’s humanitarian response in Cox’s Bazar,” he said.
“Sensing the urgency for measures to prevent further degradation and support early restoration, we, at UNDP, undertook this report with the aim that it would help development actors programme early response,” Mukerjee said.
ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir said some 800,000 Rohingays will need to be supported and it is also for the host community, and laid emphasis on alternative use of fuel.
“We’re giving kerosene stoves to the refugees. We must stop this. This is going to be a huge crisis if one incident of fire occurs. We won’t be able to manage this,” she said.
Among others, Dr Sultan Ahmed, Director General of Department of Environment, Mohammed Shafiul Alam Chowdhury, Chief Conservator of Forests of Bangladesh Forest Department, Mohammad Mohsin, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief also spoke at the event.
The report suggested seven key measures to mitigate the impacts and restore the ecosystem and lives in Cox’s Bazar.
Dhaka, Sept 18 (UNB) - The Netherlands has assured of supporting Bangladesh to implement the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100.
Dutch Minister for Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen expressed her government’s readiness in this regard to Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Netherlands Sheikh Mohammed Belal during a meeting between them at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands on Monday.
The Dutch Minister also assured of supporting inland reclamation and river dredging in Bangladesh, said the Embassy on Tuesday.
Referring to the invitation from the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to join the newly commissioned Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) as Co-Convener and attend the launching of the GCA in The Hague on October 16, 2018, the Dutch Minister remarked that Bangladesh has always been an important country for any global initiative on climate change.
She hoped that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would join the GCA as Co-Convener and attend the launching ceremony of the GCA on October 16, 2018 to demonstrate to the world that Bangladesh is at the forefront of climate change adaptation alongside mitigation of adverse impacts of climate change.
Ambassador Sheikh Mohammed Belal congratulated the Netherlands for taking the initiative of launching Global Commission on Adaption towards lending global political commitment to climate change adaptation focusing on solutions to the climate change issues.
He thanked the Dutch government for inviting Bangladesh Prime Minister to join such global initiative.
At the meeting, both the Dutch Minister and Bangladesh Ambassador expressed satisfaction at the fast growing bilateral relations between the two countries following the official visit of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the Netherlands in November 2015, and the Dutch twin-ministerial visit to Bangladesh in June 2015.
Referring to the approval of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 on 4 September 2018 by the Government of Bangladesh, the Ambassador expressed sincere thanks to the Dutch government for their technical assistance in formulating the Plan.
The Ambassador also sought Dutch support under the broader framework of Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 for mitigating long-term flood risks and adverse impacts of climate change through basin-wide water management, land reclamation, river-dredging, capacity building of Bangladesh River Research Institute and knowledge development through education and training.
The Dutch Minister assured to continue their support in implementing Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 to better manage water resources of Bangladesh and mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.
The Dutch Minister expressed her hope to visit Bangladesh at an opportune time to see for herself Bangladesh’s prowess in climate change adaptation and explore further Dutch cooperation in implementing Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100.
Dhaka, Sept 18 (UNB) - A Bangladeshi national was sentenced to six years and eight months’ jail, as well as fined RM 30,000 and two strokes of the cane by a Malaysian court in Pekan Nanas for 16 charges under the Immigration Act.
Judge Zahilah Md Yusof handed down the sentence on Md Mohiuddin Mamun, 40, who pleaded guilty to all the charges, reports Malaysian national news agency, Bernama on Tuesday.
Mohiuddin was charged with 14 counts of unlawful possession of passports which did not belong to him, while the other two charges were for violating his social visit pass and for attempting to forge either a visa, permit or pass under the Immigration Act.
The offences were all committed at two premises on Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Johor Bahru, between 4pm and 5pm last Aug 27.
Cox’s Bazar, Sept 17 (UNB) – Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Monday said India will continue to extend humanitarian assistance to support the government of Bangladesh in its efforts to provide succour to the Rohingyas.
“We understand the plight of the displaced persons and Bangladesh’s support to the displaced persons under trying circumstances deserves appreciation,” he said while addressing a function to hand over humanitarian assistance from India.
Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzel Hussain Chowdhury Maya attended the function as the chief guest.
Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Md Shah Kamal, Additional Secretary, Refuge, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammed Abul Kalam, Chairman, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Hafiz Ahmed Majumder, Secretary General, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Feroz Salauddin and Joint Secretary (BM), Indian Ministry of External Affairs Vikram Doraiswami were also present.
In the last one year or so, Bangladesh has hosted close to one million Rohingyas from the Rakhine State of Myanmar.
This humanitarian gesture has been appreciated by India and all concerned.
“As a neighbour, friend and partner of Bangladesh, India has responded promptly to support the government of Bangladesh in meeting the relief requirements posed by this large influx of displaced persons,” said the High Commissioner.
The High Commissioner, who also visited Rohingya camps, handed over third phase of relief assistance of over 1 million litres of Super Kerosene Oil and 20,000 kerosene stoves.
The first tranche of relief material consisting of 4.5 lakh food packs of rice, lentils, milk, etc was delivered in September 2017.
In May 2018, the second tranche of relief material consisting of 373 metric tons of dry fish, milk powder, baby food, rain coats and gum boots to cater to the rainy season was handed over.
Shringla said India has also started construction of pre-fabricated houses in the Rakhine State.
“I am happy to inform that we are building 250 houses which are nearing completion. Foundation work has already started for 50 houses at a village called Kyein Chaung in Maungdaw district of Myanmar. These dwellings are intended to facilitate the return of displaced persons from Bangladesh,” he said.
India, earlier, underscored the need for three Ss - safe, speedy and sustainable return of the displaced persons to Rakhine State.
The High Commissioner aid India reiterated India's commitment to help in the return of displaced people to their homes in Myanmar.
“India has always stood by Bangladesh in times of need. Ours is a relationship based on trust, friendship and shared martyrdom that goes beyond strategic partnership,” he said.
Shringla said, “It is in this spirit of friendship that we have come forward to share their burden and will continue to do so.”
Dhaka, Sept 17 (UNB) - US Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat on Monday said a free, fair and inclusive election is important for a democracy, especially for the one which is on track to become a middle-income country.
"Together, we can contribute to a peaceful and prosperous Bangladesh," she said while addressing the inaugural ceremony of a campaign launched at the Celebrity Hall of Bangabandhu International Convention Centre (BICC) with a slogan ‘Bangladesh will win if peace wins.’
Prime Minister's Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, BNP standing committee member Dr Moyeen Khan, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Alison Blake and Chief of Party for DI in Bangladesh Katie Croake, among others, spoke at the programme.
The US Ambassador said political parties must accept their rivals as legitimate participations in the political process and as potential leaders of the next government, even when they disagree on issues or policies.
"It's essential that Bangladeshis urge nonviolence by all actors at every stage of the democratic process, before, during, and after the elections," Bernicat said.
She said violence serves only those who wish to undermine the democratic processes and the interest of Bangladesh and its citizens.
British High Commissioner Blake said now is the time for all political leaders who say no to violence to come together to support this campaign to win with peace. “All of us want peace. If peace wins, the world wins; if peace wins, Bangladesh wins.”
She said the people of Bangladesh believe that peaceful elections and politics will lead to a brighter future for everyone in Bangladesh. “We have all come together here today because we share that hope.”
Blake said the UK strongly reaffirms commitment to supporting democracy globally, working with all their partners.
She said she is delighted to be able to join such a wonderful event, bringing together people from across the political spectrum and the country to pledge support for inclusive politics and to help deliver Bangladeshis’ vision for free, fair, participatory elections in Bangladesh.
The High Commissioner said there is no mistaking the clear message that they hear from everyone across the country that the people of Bangladesh want a peaceful political environment and tolerant political practices.
“Violence and disorder should not be part of politics or elections; and that the victims of violence or disorder are not just the politically active or groups of opposing muscle but that it affects the rights and lives of the innocent bystanders, including minorities, women, and marginalised communities,” she said.
Democracy International brought together 400 Awami League and BNP leaders to inaugurate `Shantite Bijoy’ Campaign’, a national campaign ahead of the next national election, seeking peace centering the polls.
This campaign engages and raises awareness among registered political parties of Bangladesh and candidates in the upcoming national elections in favour of peaceful elections and tolerant politics.
The programme began with singing the national anthem. A documentary was also screened on the occasion.
Speakers expressed the hope for peaceful and participatory polls.