Recently I got an opportunity to meet with Mr Philip Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner (HC) for Refugees, while he was visiting Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. I raised some crucial issues related to the Rohingya crisis.
My first point was, we do like to express frustration is that there are little of political pressure from UN and big countries in respect of compelling Myanmar to take their citizens back or for voluntary repatriation. Bangladesh is facing daunting challenge to accommodate 1.1 million Rohingya refugees. Our prime minister has a plan and already invested approximately $ 33 billion in around 70 projects for developing infrastructure in Cox’s Bazar. We and Cox’s Bazar local people want to take the benefits of these. We consider voluntary repatriation is the only the solution, we do not like to think any other alternatives. We also ensure that, as our prime minister said that, as we feed 160 million people, we can also feed 1 million refugees until the repatriation happens.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury
Our natural resources are in danger in Cox’s Bazar, we do like to propose two simple actions, first banning of using plastic in camps, and there are lot of alternatives to plastics. You know very well that plastic will damage our land fertility. Next one is to limit using of ground water for shallow and deep tube wells, as we need to preserve our water for our future generations. I know that there is information that in Ukhiya, host community members have to go for more in deep to install shallow tube wells. We should give emphasize for using surface water, especially to use the water of Naf river. HC Filippo Grandi encourages the idea of banning plastic use in camps. Regarding surface water use, he talked to Mr Johannes, the Country Representative of UNHCR in Bangladesh.
We gave thanks to UN agencies and all NGOs that in a quickest time, they have succeeded a level of greenery restoration in camp areas. Almost all donors’ representatives who are based in Cox’s Bazar, Sector Heads and ISCG Senior Coordinator were there. I hope in future they will announce a concrete plan to preserve natural resources of Cox’s Bazar.
I have also pleaded for “technical assistance and know-how” transferring to locals as there are numbers of expatriates working in Cox’s Bazar in respect of Rohingya response management. As a local, we consider these as opportunities, and it is the reason we do like to plea for localisation, so that it will assist the capacity development of locals and local organisations and they can take leadership in response management. It is the SEG (Strategic Executive Group) who have prepared the Localisation Task Force (LTP) and prepared the localisation road map during the period of 2020 and 2021, the LTF was led by UNDP and IFRC. I hope ISCG should take lead to implement the road map, consult the road map.
We feel that there are needs of pooled fund in this respect. Bangladesh has best example of vibrant civil society and also democratic ownership of pooled fund and civil societies, so we do not like to see any monopolisation in this regard.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury is Executive Director, COAST Foundation