Sunday, August 18, 2019 | ePaper

Ecological dangers of deforestation

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ACCORDING to two recent studies, more than 2,000 hectares of forest have been lost in Cox's Bazar as a result of the expansion of refugee camps after the great exodus of over 750,000 Rohingyas since August 2017. Over the last one and a half years, tens of thousands of trees, both big and small, have been cut down to set up camps, making furniture and cooking food. The financial cost of this destruction of forest in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas stands at about Tk 1,865 crore, but the long-term consequences are more environmental than financial.
Expansion of the old Kutupalong camp blocked the only corridor used by the globally endangered Asian elephants as a migration route and trapped about 45 elephants in the western side of the camp. The remaining elephant habitat is under severe pressure from uncontrolled firewood collection in the forest. Soil erosion and landslides are already common in the area, affecting water resources, irrigation, and groundwater reserves. But now, local biodiversity, including marine resources, acoustic environment, and air quality, is being degraded at an unprecedented rate.
Discharge of domestic and other waste is causing water pollution locally and heavy pressure on local groundwater reserve because of mass refugee influx within a very short period in the area. Besides, approximately 10 percent landscape of Ukhiya and Inani Forest Range has been occupie with well drained flood plains, and soils of the site are sandy to sandy loam in highlands and clayey to silt clay in the depressions.
Creating and maintaining biodiversity corridors to facilitate elephant movement is necessary to reduce human-elephant conflict and causalities in the area. A sound coordination between different conservation, development and humanitarian agencies is also critical to address properly. The Rohingya settlements committed irreparable damage in biodiversity of Cox's Bazar. We do urge the authorities concerned along with the local and international aid agencies to work in a coordinated way to save the ecological balance in this area.

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