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Support to Bangladesh Host Communities and Institutions in the Rohingya Refugee Response - Energy & Environment Technical Working Group

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  • 700 MT of firewood equivalent to 4 football fields are collected every day

  • Estimated complete loss of forest by end of 2019

  • 86% of drinking water wells contaminated with ecoli from unmanaged fecal matter

  • Irrigation wells no longer able due to watershed destruction and diminished water table

  • Agricultural land near camps suffering from siltation and contamination from fecal matter

  • Mass cooking fires and garbage burning lead to daily spikes in air pollution oArea of 1,500 ha of wildlife habitat removed

  • Loss of critical habitat for elephants and other species

  • Depleted marine resources due to overfishing and destructive practices.

Crisis Context: Since the massive influx of refugees in August 2017, the population in Cox’s Bazar has more than doubled exposing both refugees and communities to severe challenges in terms of food and nutrition security and livelihoods. This important humanitarian crisis is becoming a rapidly deteriorating environmental crisis with landslides and flash floods threatening the lives of thousands while stoking conflict between host communities and Rohingya refugees. The crisis is also contributing to depletion of already scarce water resources.

Impact on Populations: More than two thousand hectares of forest and crop land have been depleted to establish the camps and every day more than 4 football fields of forest disappear due to firewood collection (700 tons per day).

The Energy and Environment Technical Working Group (EETWG) focuses mainly on the environmental disaster caused by the massive firewood collection. The EETWG encourages and supports all initiatives and innovative solutions contributing to environmental restoration and the improvement of living conditions for host communities and refugees.

The environmental crisis requires immediate actions to avoid the complete loss of the natural resource base and the foundation for local livelihoods. The rapid and extensive deforestation has led to destruction of key watersheds causing mass erosion, landslides, flash floods and a dramatic reduction in the recharge of ground water reserves.

Ongoing Activities of the Humanitarian Response

Provision of alternative cooking technology:

Providing the population with alternative clean cooking fuel and eliminating the competition for firewood is the preliminary condition before starting environment restoration activities. Reports and studies show that introducing LPG is a way to quickly and significantly curb the deforestation. A coalition of organizations has started distributions of LPG cook sets and cylinders with a plan to cover more than 100,000 households from the refugee and host community population within the next 12 months.
The project is part of the RRRC Clean Energy Program which also entails the expansion of other cooking fuel alternatives including improved cookstoves, biomass briquettes and biogas.

Longer-Term Environmental Planning

The environmental restoration activities will be developed and managed under the supervision of the Government. This long-term rehabilitation strategy for restoring the degraded lands will further include watershed management, water resource mapping and efficient/clean energy use planning for both agriculture and home consumption. This work will be led by the local government with the support of partner agencies and will be informed by several recently conducted environmental impact assessments.