Project title: Biodiversity Conflict Mitigation around the Refugee Camp of Cox’s Bazar District
Location: Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Project duration: January−December 2018
Project background: As of January 2018, Bangladesh hosts almost one million forcibly displaced persons from Myanmar. The speed and scale of the influx following the violence in Rakhine State, which began on 25 August 2017, has resulted in a critical humanitarian emergency. Displaced people who arrived in Bangladesh came with very few possessions and have been staying in several camps in Cox’s Bazar district in very congested condition. To fulfill their basic needs, like food, shelter, and income generation, they are using resources from the adjacent forests. This is resulting in a significant impact on the forest, biodiversity and forest resources of that area.
Kutupalong of Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, where the largest refugee camp is now established, is well known for the important habitat corridor of Asian Elephants and is an important forest area frequently used by wild elephants. It is also used as migration route of elephants from Myanmar to Bangladesh and vice versa to cover food and shelter.
Behaviourally, elephants always follow their traditional routes and corridors for regular movement. If they find any obstacles within it, they try to break it. As a consequence of that, human-elephant conflicts have already happened on the edge of the refugee camp in Ukhia, causing several human deaths since September 2017. The human-elephant conflict mitigation is therefore an urgent issue requiring immediate resolution. Building on IUCN Bangladesh’s experiences on similar conflict mitigation, UNHCR and IUCN have agreed to work together to minimize human-elephant conflict in and around the Kutupalong camp area of Cox’s Bazar.
Objectives of the project: The project will address two specific problems: 1) the human-elephant conflict, and 2) community awareness in and around the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. To make any human-elephant conflict mitigation measures effective and sustainable, it is important to improve the overall degraded forest area through long-term and large-scale reforestation. Any such long-term initiative is currently lacking among the on-going initiatives. To address these issues, the project is built around two specific objectives:
a) To implement human-elephant conflict mitigation measures with the refugee and host communities; and
b) To raise environmental awareness among refugee and host communities and to conduct advocacy with other stakeholders for overall, long-term environmental improvement of the camp area and beyond.
Activities: The main activities of this project are:
⦁ Consultation with the relevant stakeholders, namely refugee and host communities, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner’s Office (RRRC), Bangladesh Forest Department, law enforcement agencies, other UN agencies, NGOs and INGOs, to select potentially affected communities to implement mitigation measurers;
⦁ Marking of elephant routes and corridors to install the road-signs and to inform the local communities and stakeholders to avoid the marked areas;
⦁ Initiate human-elephant conflict mitigation options, like formation and ⦁ capacity development of Elephant Response Teams (ERTs); providing equipment to ERTs to divert in-coming elephants; and setting up elephant deterrent tools (e.g. trip alarms and watch-towers); and
⦁ Organize awareness raising and advocacy programmes on the importance of biodiversity, forests and related issues to sensitize agencies, stakeholders, and institutions.
The project envisages impacts at two levels. First, a significant portion of the refugees living on the edge of the camp and the local host communities living around the camp area will be protected from potential elephant attacks by using proven methods and technologies. Second, by capturing the project learning and by networking with other agencies working in this region, the project experience could be scaled up, in the camp area and beyond. This would contribute to development of a long-term programme that would lead towards overall environmental improvement of Cox’s Bazar − an outstanding region furnished with marine, coastal and hill ecosystems – and its resilient people.
Donor: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)