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Rohingya habitat threatens forests in Ukhiya

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05th-Jun-2018       
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Staff Reporter :
The forests in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas of Cox's Bazar is poised to perish by 2019 if Rohingya habitation continues to overuse natural resources in those areas, experts said on Monday.
"Around 1.94 lakh Rohingya families settled in Ukhiya and Teknaf burn almost 2, 250 tonnes of firewood daily for cooking and they collect them from the nearby forests," said Barkotullah Maruf, Assistant Director of Coastal Association for Social Transformation (COAST) trust, a local NGO, made the observation at a press conference in Dhaka.
Around 60 percent forest land in Ukhiya and 41percent in Teknaf will perish very soon if the present situation continues, Maruf said adding that the natural ecology of the area has already collapsed due to overuse of natural resources.
COAST Trust and Cox's Bazar CSO-NGO Forum jointly organised the press conference at Jatiya Press Club around 11:00am.
Forest land as big as four football grounds being destroyed everyday for cooking food by Rohingya families" Maruf said, quoting official sources.
Natural water resources around Rohingya camps have also become polluted by human waste, the COAST functionary said.
"The 21 canals, chhoras and jhiris around the Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf areas have already been polluted, Maruf said adding that  
locals previously depended on those for water. It is becoming a big threat to public health.
Unplanned installation of deep tube-wells is also impacting underground water. A survey by COAST Trust on 50 blocks of four Rohingya camps showed that among the 300 tube-wells there 70 percent does not work.
Special fund is needed for restoring environment and the natural resources in the area, COAST Trust said.
"A part of the international relief money allocated for the Rohingya refugees needs to be used for the restoration purpose," COAST added.
Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (Bapa) Cox's Bazar district committee also spoke at the conference.
Presence of radioactive elements above the normal level was also found in surface waters and under the ground water in the two upazilas, Fazlul said in his statement while referring to a hydro-geological research by DR Ashraf Ali Siddiquee, the head of the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering at Kabi Nazrul Islam University.
The salt level was also found to be higher than usual in the water of the areas, Fazlul added.
"Water will dry up very soon in the areas if nothing is done to prevent this destruction of nature" Fazlul said.

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