The Energy and Environment Technical Working Group (EETWG), comprised of UN agencies and NGOs, yesterday launched reforestation activities in Kutupalong refugee camp of Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar.
This year, members of the group will complete the activities across 500 acres inside the camp.
The area that hosts what is now the world’s largest and most densely populated refugee camp was a forest with diverse flora and fauna prior to the arrival of 745,000 people fleeing Myanmar in 2017 and 2018.
“The reforestation, which 20 UN agencies and NGOs alongside the Government of Bangladesh and refugees themselves are doing, will rejuvenate the area and restore the land and habitat,” said Todd Wofchuck, EETWG coordinator.
The reforestation will also stabilise the vulnerable land to mitigate risks of landslides and flooding, which can cut off people from vital services during heavy rain. It will also restore the riparian area, improve the vegetation cover, reduce surface water pollution and increase groundwater recharge.
Indigenous species of vegetation are being planted to help restore the damaged environment and conserve the endangered species in the region. A mixed vegetation approach will be used, which includes planting of long rooted grass, leguminous seeds, tree seedlings, and bamboo.
The initiative is part of a holistic programme being run by UN agencies in the camp. First, deforestation was halted by addressing the demand for cooking fuel by providing liquified petroleum gas (LPG).
Gas stoves have been distributed to families, which has greatly reduced the number of trees being cut down to use for fuel.
Government partners from RRRC and Bangladesh Forestry department, Cox’s Bazar along with other representatives from WFP, IUCN, FAO and UNHCR were present during the programme.