Bangladesh’s government and NGOs are replacing the fuel sources of more than a million refugees
The use of firewood has gone down significantly in Rohingya camps located around the Cox’s Bazar district, a year on from the advent of the refugee crisis in 2017.
The Bangladesh government and a number of non-governmental organizations (NGO) helped curb the use of firewood by supplying LP gas cylinders to the camps.
A total of 1,116,417 displaced Myanmar citizens are currently residing in 12 Rohingya camps situated in the Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas.
Initially, the refugees inhabited 3,000 acres of forestland in the region, later the government allotted them another 2,000 acres.
However, according several non-governmental reports, the Rohingya have already taken over more than 10,000 acres of forestland—destroying the green belt, various species of trees, and hilly areas in the process.
These refugees, in dire need of firewood, have wiped out acres of forestland over the course of several months. A year on, the government took the initiative to supply LP gas cylinders to the Rohingya camps—to slowly phase out the use of firewood.
Due to this initiative, most of the refugees in camps are using LP gas.
According to data provided by Cox's Bazar South Forest Department official MD Ali Kabir, the Rohingyas staying in Ukhiya and Teknaf were using around 10,000 tons of firewood – sourced from the region’s forestland – each day.
The refugees had also built 165,000 makeshift huts in the reserved forestland—causing around Tk397.18 crore worth of damages to the biodiversity and forest resources.
This situation, if allowed to continue, would have ravaged the green belt of the region.
With support from the government, various international donor agencies and NGOs, The Rohingya slowly phased out the use of firewood as fuel, and transitioned to LP gas.
This initiative has, in turn curbed, the destruction of the forestland significantly.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Lalu Majhi and Fayez Majhi from Balukhali Rohingya Camp, and Moktar Majhi from Kutupalong Camp, confirmed that the availability of LP gas has stopped them from chopping down trees from nearby forestland.
“Using firewood for cooking was a lot of trouble for us, but it is much easier to cook using gas stoves. We are getting LP gas cylinders and stoves every month,” they told the Dhaka Tribune.
Speaking on the matter, President of Cox's Bazar Forest and Environment Conservation Council Dipak Sharma Dipu said: “I have heard that the Rohingyas are getting LP gas to use as fuel. If this initiative is expanded, it could help restore the damaged forestland in the region.
“The indiscriminate chopping of trees has destroyed Ukhiya and Teknaf’s forestland. The government should put more emphasis on this initiative.”
Cox’s Bazar Civil Society President Abu Morshed Chowdhury said: “The government has made some positive changes in the Rohingya camps since the crisis began last year. This initiative could be a great help to the refugees. But they should exercise caution while using gas stoves.”
Meanwhile, Ukhiya Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Md Nikaruzzaman told the correspondent: “Since refugee crisis began last year, around 25,000 Rohingya families received LP gas cylinders and stoves.
“Various NGOs have also launched similar projects, so that more refugees can avail this facility.”
He continued: “The destruction of forestland for firewood has decreased significantly following the distribution of LP gas cylinders and stoves in the Rohingya camps. We are optimistic that the destruction of forestland will drop to zero after some time.”