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Foreign minister: Rohingyas eating up forests in Bangladesh

  • Published at 11:30 pm February 24th, 2019
File photo of Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Ukhiya, Cox's Bazar Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

He said the nature has its own course and will not wait for anybody

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Sunday said over 1.2 million Rohingyas living in Cox's Bazar are unfortunately eating up much of Bangladesh forests and creating an environmental disaster.

He said: "Bangladesh is already considered a role model in the management of natural disasters. We have achieved a commendable success in mitigating and adopting with climate change-related challenges."

The minister said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina established two Climate Funds and initiated dredging of rivers and green afforestation.

The foreign minister was speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural session of annual thematic meeting of the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) held at a Dhaka hotel.

Principal Secretary M Nojibur Rahman, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Senior Secretary Shah Kamal and French Ambassador to Bangladesh Marie-Annick Bourdin, among others, spoke at the inaugural session attended by diplomats stationed in Dhaka.

The foreign minister said Bangladesh adopted a 100-year Delta Plan to face challenges in climate change and this plan is designed in association with the Netherlands.

This program may however cost an additional 2.5% of GDP each year and by 2031, in terms of dollars, it would cost $29.6 billion.

He said the government of Bangladesh proposed undertaking 80 projects during its first 10 years from 2020-30 costing around Tk 2,97,827 crore or $37.5 billion and such will help increase Bangladesh's GDP by 1.5% for its current 7.86%.

"However, it is a daunting task to arrange funding for it, as majority of funds should come from private sector. In addition, we would need to put up higher embankments that would cost nearly additional $ 25 billion minimum," said the foreign minister.

He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visualized the gravity of the problem and initiated many programs to evade the impending danger of climate change.

Dr Momen said Bangladesh's lone effort is not enough and the government of Bangladesh is open to any initiative at the regional and global level, including BIMSTEC, Saarc, Delta Coalition, Climate Vulnerable Forum and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). 

"At the global level, Bangladesh is a champion in promoting climate issues."

He said the nature has its own course and will not wait for anybody.

"Whether we recognize it or not, climate change is taking place with increased numbers and ferocity of disasters."

The foreign minister said this surely will lead more displacement and unless they, as global citizens, commit themselves to face these challenges with rock-solid commitment and determination. "I'm afraid, the problem will aggravate so much so that, it may be too late to reverse the course of misery displacements and human disasters."

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahrial Alam and State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Md Enamur Rahman addressed the closing session of the event chaired by Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque.

State Minister Shahriar said the Bangladesh government has mobilized funds from its own resources to counter and adapt to the impacts of climate change which has been widely acclaimed by the global community.

He said Bangladesh has always been in the forefront of climate negotiations in the global arena. "I firmly believe - the efforts of this group will be further multiplied to find and implement solutions for the people to stay in their land or accommodate them in a suitable shelter with safety and security when they are forced to move."

Bangladesh, as the current chair of the PDD, hosted the event in collaboration with International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The meeting explored issues related to human mobility -- displacement, migration and planned relocation -- in the context of both sudden-onset disasters like tropical cyclones, tidal bore, tsunami, earthquake, landslide and volcanic eruption.

It explored slow-onset events and processes like sea-level rise, river erosion, salinity, flood, drought, many of which are inter-related, and are results of environmental degradation due to climate change.

The meeting discussed how protection can be best ensured for displaced persons and persons at risk of displacement, including through effective disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in national, regional and international levels.

Over a hundred participants representing governments of the Steering Group of the Platform on Disaster Displacement, participants from other governments as well as representatives from regional and international organizations, UN Agencies, civil society organizations and research institutions are attending it.

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