FAO in Bangladesh

Reforestation activities launched in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps


The Energy and Environment Technical Working Group (EETWG), comprised of United Nations Agencies and NGOs, have jointly launched reforestation activities in the world’s largest refugee camp. In 2019, the members of the working group will complete reforestation activities covering 500 acres inside the camps.
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 from Myanmar in 2017 and 2018.
“This is an unprecedented initiative in a humanitarian context. Twenty UN Agencies and NGOs, are working alongside the Government of Bangladesh and refugees to rejuvenate the area and restore the landscape and habitat with guidance from the Forest Department,” said Todd Wofchuck, the Energy and Environment Technical Working Group coordinator.
The reforestation will also stabilize the vulnerable land to mitigate the risk of landslides and flooding in the camps, which cut people off from vital services during heavy monsoon rains. It will also restore the riparian area, improve the vegetation cover, and reduce surface water pollution and increase ground water recharge.
Indigenous species are being planted to restore the damaged environment and conserve the endangered species in the region. For this restoration initiative a mixed vegetation approach was determined as the most appropriate, as it includes planting of long rooted grass, bamboo, leguminous and deep-rooted tree seedlings.
The reforestation is part of a holistic programme implemented by UN Agencies in the camps. The deforestation was halted through addressing the demand for cooking fuel in the targeted communities by providing Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) stoves. LPG stoves were distributed to families living in the camps which has greatly reduced the number of trees being cut down to use for fuel. With firewood collection greatly reduced, the reforestation of the area is the next step to restore the environment in and around the camps, and this year’s planting laid out in 2019 Camp Greening Strategy is part of a three-year strategic plan where technical assistance is provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
Under the present climatic scenario, tree plantation is solely depended on natural rain fed and can be done efficiently only in three months of a year. The strategic partnership and coordination between Government partners - Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) and Bangladesh Cox’s Bazar South Forest Department, along with FAO, IOM, IUCN, UNHCR and other development partners led to timely start of the greening activities in the camps.