The arrival of refugees to Cox’s Bazar from Myanmar put a large strain on the local environment. During the initial phase of the emergency, hundreds of thousands of refugees struggled to build emergency shelters with the materials they could find, and used firewood from forest areas for cooking. This led to forest areas being cleared and trees cut extensively. UNHCR has been working with the authorities and other humanitarian agencies in Cox’s Bazar on sustainable and safe solutions for refugees helping to mitigate the impact on the environment and protect and restore it with the help of refugees.
The LPG programme of UNHCR is on-going and proving to be key for the protection of refugees. 99% of the refugees have been cooking with LPG since April 2019. The on-going monitoring and evaluation has allowed to better tailor the distribution as per refugee’s needs, and to make sure that refugees are using LPG cookstove in a same manner. A biomass survey is being realized together with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and it will allow to quantify the positive impact of the LPG programme in terms of deforestation and preservation of ecosystem services. The distributions of host community families have been initiated after a vulnerability survey on 23000 host community families was performed. This on-going distribution will contribute to strengthen the resilience of the inhabitants of the Cox’s Bazar peninsula with regards to cooking energy. A pilot project on pressure cooker is being rolled out and expected to generate a 30% fuel efficiency to its users. A scale-up is planned upon the results of the pilot project.
As per the High Commissioner’s initiate, the Solar+ programme has started and consist of the implementation of minigrids in the refugee camps. The construction of a minigrid that will power, amongst others, the clinic and market stalls is about to start.
Planting using a composition (27 species) of tree saplings, grass, legumes and shrubs have been completed in 62 ha of degraded land within the 16 camps. Planting programme of UNHCR and partners aim at controlling soil erosion, riparian protection, improving soil health and promotion of shade and nutrition. Refugees are engaged to protect the saplings following an agro-forestry model. 160 refugee households have been engaged and supported with inputs and relevant training on environment friendly agricultural techniques that ensures minimum disturbance to soil, less water use by the crops and bio- pesticide control mechanisms.
Watershed management options, enhancing reservoir capacity, bank protection with plant, biological waste water treatment is being piloted in one important stretch of Madurchhara watershed aiming to be replicated and scaled in whole basin. Better watershed management will ensure livelihoods security of host communities living in the downstream and improve habitat condition for the refugees as well as contribute to improve habitat for the biodiversity that were affected.
596 Elephnat response Team volunteers from host and refugee communities are engaged, who has been monitoring the elephant movement around the camp from 96 watch towers and managing the contact by engaging with community. Aiming sustainability and improving the capacity of the environment programme, 176,111 individuals have been provided with environmental education.
A comprehensive assessment to measure the effectiveness of LPG programm in controlling deforestation is ongoing