THE WRETCHED AND THE EARTH
During August 2017, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya ocked to Bangladesh, eeing per- secution in their home country of Myanmar. A er 5 years, still one million refugees are housed in make- shi camps in the Bengali region of Cox’s Bazar and while their living conditions remain precarious, the future of these families remains uncertain.
The project aims to document the short- and long- term environmental impact of sudden mass migration in order to understand the indissoluble relationship between human beings and their environment by following two very pressing narratives: people struggling to survive on precious few resources and the impact of the refugee crisis on an already beleaguered ecosystem. Usually the environmental migration narrative focuses on migration as a result of the e ects of climate change, but what happens when it is a large migration that causes climate and environmental change?
During a mass migration, huge numbers of people are concentrated in a relatively small area with basic needs to be met: especially in the emergency phase of the crisis, as happened in southern Bangladesh, the pressure on an already fragile local ecosystem can be unsustainable: in just a few months, water resources are rapidly degrading, the Teknaf nature reserve has lost more than 8,000 acres to the setting up of camps and the need by refugees to collect wood for cooking, there have been problems with local wildlife and waste management, risks of res in the dry season and landslides and flooding during the monsoons.
Five years after the influx with little hope of a repatriation agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar and despite humanitarian and environmental conditions remain critical, thanks to the work of the international cooperation the living conditions of the population have generally improved: camps are better organized, reforestation programs have been implemented and infrastructure has been established to manage essential services.
Today we have more than 100 million refugees worldwide, the highest number ever, and many mass migrations today and in the future will face the same problems. In a particularly fragile region of a country that is one of the most vulnerable to climate change in the world, the unfolding environmental crisis and its management in Cox’s Bazar is a unique case study and an acute example of the challenges posed by mass migration.