Around 1.94 lakh Rohingya families residing in Ukhia and Teknaf refugee camps burn about 2,250 tonnes of firewood daily for cooking. If it continues, the forests in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas may perish by 2019, according to a study finding of COAST Trust, a local NGO.
Barkat Ullah Maruf, assistant director of COAST Trust's social media, revealed this at a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club yesterday. COAST Trust's research was on environment, water and pollution in Ukhia and Teknaf.
“According to government high officials, forest area equivalent to four football grounds is being destroyed every day for using firewood to cook,” he said.
Around 60 percent of the total area in Ukhia is forest, while it is 41 percent in Teknaf, he added.
Coastal Association for Social Transformation (COAST) Trust and Cox's Bazar CSO-NGO Forum jointly organised the press conference.
The 21 canals and streams around the Rohingya camps in Ukhia and Teknaf have already become polluted due to excessive use of water, Barkat said, adding that locals used water of those canals and streams for their daily activities and agricultural work.
Unplanned installation of deep tube-wells also hurt the groundwater table, he said.
According to the COAST Trust survey, 70 percent of 300 tube-wells in 50 blocks of four Rohingya camps do not work.
The COAST Trust called for urgently providing the Rohingya families alternative fuel.
A special fund is needed for restoring the environment and the natural resources in the areas, the COAST Trust said, adding that a portion of the international relief money for the Rohingya refugees is needed to be used for this purpose.
It also called for taking an immediate step to stop pollution of canals and streams and increase source of water by digging ponds and canals.
Radioactive elements have been found at more than the acceptable level in groundwater in the two upazilas, said Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, president of Cox's Bazar unit Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan and also executive director of Green Cox's, citing a research finding on groundwater conducted by Ashraf Ali Seddique, head of environmental science and engineering department at Jatiya Kabi Nazrul Islam University.
Renowned environmentalist Atiq Rahman, also executive director of Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, said the groundwater level dropped to such a level that it would be difficult to pump out water with tube-wells in future.