Rohingya refugee crisis threatens biodiversity of Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar

In this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo, Rohingya children and refugees raise their hands and shout that they won't go back to Myanmar during a demonstration at Kutupalong near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Cutting of firewood by Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar is putting great stress to the region's biodiversity, according to a report. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)
Updated 03 June 2018

Rohingya refugee crisis threatens biodiversity of Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar

  • 2,000 hectares of forestland has disappeared due to refugees cutting trees for firewood
  • Bangladesh government plans to start reforestation once 1,00,000 refugees are shifted to the new island Bhashan Char (Floating island).

DHAKA: Some 2,000 hectares of forestland — equivalent to four football fields — around Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, has disappeared due to Rohingya refugees cutting trees for firewood, according to a report by the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG).

It added that 86 percent of drinking-water wells have been contaminated with the E.coli bacteria from fecal matter.

Due to the “extreme level” of deforestation, the area’s biodiversity has been jeopardized, said Saiful Islam, assistant director of the environmental office in Cox’s Bazar.

The government will implement a reforestation plan once 100,000 Rohingya are relocated to Bhashan Char island in the Bay of Bengal, he added. “This relocation process is supposed to start very soon,” he said.

Hosting more than one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar “has created extraordinary pressure on our resources, as the population of Cox’s Bazar has more than doubled in a short span of time,” Islam added.

Rakibul Amin, country manager for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), told Arab News: “Due to deforestation, the biodiversity of Cox’s Bazar is under severe threat.”

He added: “It has destroyed a popular corridor for wild elephants, increasing the number of man-animal encounters.” Some rare wildlife species are at risk due to the deforestation, he said.

Agricultural land near the refugee camps is facing siltation and contamination from fecal matter, according to the ISCG report.

Bishwajit Sen, an environmentalist in Cox’s Bazar, said: “This deforestation has made this coastal district more vulnerable to climate change.”

He added: “We should have done better and systematic management of the environment from the outset of the refugee crisis.”

To reduce dependence on firewood, some aid agencies have started arranging alternative fuel sources, the report said.


Singapore targets opposition party with misinformation law

Updated 8 min 22 sec ago

Singapore targets opposition party with misinformation law

  • The party was asked to correct two Facebook posts and an article related to employment issues
  • The information said many Singaporeans were displaced from white-collar jobs by foreigners

SINGAPORE: Singapore has ordered an opposition party to correct online posts under a controversial law against misinformation, the first time the legislation has been used against a rival party, ahead of elections expected within months.
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), one of a host of small opposition parties in the city-state, was ordered to correct two Facebook posts and an article on its website related to employment issues, authorities said in a press release on Saturday.
The Facebook posts claimed that many Singaporeans had been displaced from white-collar jobs by foreign employees, which the authorities said was false.
“These false and misleading statements by the SDP have a singular objective — to stoke fear and anxiety among local PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians). It is important to set the facts straight so that Singaporeans are not misled,” the government said on its fact-checking site.
Authorities used the measure twice last month, ordering Facebook to put a correction by a post for the first time, and telling an opposition party member to correct a message.
According to the SDP, Google also cited the new regulation, which prohibits adverts seeking to influence public opinion, when it announced a ban on political ads in Singapore this month.
The party said the move would affect its ability to reach out to voters in a country where the mainstream media usually backs the government.
The increased use of the law comes as speculation mounts that elections could be called within months, although a weak opposition is seen as no match for the long-ruling People’s Action Party.
Singapore’s government, which regularly faces criticism for curbing civil liberties, insists the legislation is necessary to stop the spread of damaging falsehoods online.