The arrival of an influx of over 866,000 refugees from Myanmar in 2017 put a strain on the local environment in Cox’s Bazar where they were allowed to set up shelters by the Government of Bangladesh. The local environment was already under pressure prior to the influx due to extensive firewood collection in the area. This was exacerbated during the initial weeks of the emergency, while hundreds of thousands of refugees struggled to find materials for their emergency shelter and space to build them. Refugees were also obliged to cut trees to use as firewood for cooking in the absence of alternative support. UNHCR has, since 2017, worked closely with the authorities and other humanitarian agencies to find a better solution for fuel supply for refugees, to mitigate the impact on the environment and protect and restore it with the help of refugees. The solution adopted was liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is available locally in Bangladesh and was assessed as the best fuel alternative. This choice to use LPG has had an on-going and proven impact on protecting the local environment, as well as other benefits for refugees and the local host community including better air quality, health and protection benefits, improved nutrition, and local jobs. All refugees are presently using LPG, as well as more than 17,000 Bangladeshi households living in the host communities close to the refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar. UNHCR and partner the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) partnered with East West University in Dhaka (EWU), and through consultation with the inter-agency Energy and Environment Technical Working Group (EETWG), carried out an assessment on the impact of the switch to LPG. The study found that LPG distribution has resulted in an 80% reduction of demand for firewood in the Rohingya households in the camps, reducing deforestation to well within sustainable forestry rates, while the overall demand for firewood in the area has dropped to well below pre-influx levels. This combined with joint reforestation and conservation efforts, in collaboration with the Bangladesh Forest Department, has had a visible impact throughout the refugee camps. The pre-pilot project on pressure cooker has also been resumed. 394 families are now cooking with a pressure cooker and are monitored daily.

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