The Wretched and the Earth

Gabriele Cecconi

2018 - Ongoing

During August 2017, hundreds of thousands of people from the Rohingya ethnic group flocked to Bangladesh, fleeing persecution in their country of origin, Myanmar.

Today one million refugees are housed in makeshift camps in the Bengal region of Cox’s Bazar. While their living conditions are extremely precarious the future of these families remains uncertain. The project aim to document the environmental impact of a sudden mass migration in order to figure out the indissoluble relation between human being and its environment following two very pressing narratives: people struggling to survive with few precious resources, and the 'impact of the refugee crisis on an already beleaguered ecosystem. Everybody knows the indissoluble but fragile bond between the human being and his environment and during a mass migration this line is widely crossed. This is an hidden issue never seriously faced by the international community, especially in the emergency phases of the crisis, even if the consequences affect dramatically refugees themselves that are directly exposed to the host environment. The pressure on the local ecosystem is unsustainable: the water resources degradate quickly, the Teknaf nature reserve could disappear by 2019 increasing soil erosion, risk of land-sliding and flooding during monsoons an the use of the fuelwood collected in the forest within very small structures has caused an epidemic of acute respiratory infections, which is the leading cause of mortality among the Rohingya. Today we have 68 million refugees in the world, the highest number ever, and many mass migrations have to deal with the same issues. In a particularly fragile region of a country that is one of the most vulnerable to climate change in the world, the environmental crisis unravelling in Cox’s Bazar is an acute example of the challenges posed by mass migration.

The project has been done in 2018 and it’s the first chapter of a widest investigation, that will involved more aspects of the same issue in different crisis around the world.

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  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 6/8/2018 - Rohingya workers cross a flooded canal due to the rains in one of the new parts of the camp. Widespread deforestation had a devastating impact, increasing soil erosion, risk of land-slides and floods during the monsoons. OIM, UNHCR and WFP hired hundreds Rohingya everyday to flatten hills in the new areas of the camp to relocate refugees at risk of land sliding.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh 16/08/2018 - Sixty-year-old Abdul Salam inside a hole he excavated to build a latrine. The inability to manage the massive quantity of waste generated by the camps is a major source of disease. The World Health Organisation reported in December 2017 that 88 percent of the water samples it had collected from households in the camps were contaminated by the bacteria E. coli from unmanaged faecal matter.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong, Teknaf subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 02/03/2018 - Rohingya children drink contaminated water from a puddle just outside the Balukhali refugee camp. When the Rohingya go out to collect firewood they cannot afford to bring drinking water as a supply and sometimes they drink directly from the puddles. The lack and the quality of available water is a problem over the whole area especially during the dry season.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 12/03/2018 - A view on a perilous hill where dozens of shelters have been built. Monsoon season has already started and according to the interantional organizations more then 150000 thousands Rohingya are at risk of landslides in Kutupalong and Balukhali camps. Within 24 hours of a deluge, roads in the camps can turn to mud, while hills are highly susceptible to landslides. This weather is guaranteed to wreak havoc, destroying makeshift shelters, flooding roads and low-lying settlements, and smashing bridges.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 09/03/2018 - Marjon, aged 35, with her two-year-old son, Muhammed. Both of them suffer from acute respiratory infections. Women cook inside shelters using fuelwood collected in the forest.

  • Alikhali refugee camp, Teknaf subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, bangladesh, 10/03/2018 - A Rohingya children take water in the house in Alikhali refugee camp. The camp suffered a water crisis during the dry season. The tube wells built in the area were not deep enough to collect dinkable water and twice a days water was taken from outside by the international organizations. Thousands of refugees suffered a remarkable lack of water for months.

  • Moynarghona refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 15/03/2018 - Rohingya await the distribution of water and food in Moynarghona camp distribution center. The lack of lands is the major problem that has led to overpopulation of the settlements. The density is very high and in some areas stands at 15 m2 per

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 22/03/2018 - Rohingya build a tube-well in Balukhali refugee camp. During the dry season the scarcity of water is a huge problem in the Rohngya camps. Despite a large amount of the population have access to water, the quality of the water point is not always safe. A large amount is contaminated and always more tube wells become unusable everyday.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 06/08/2018 - Mohammed Younus inside his shelter in the Kutupalong–Balukhali expansion site. Younus is 19 years old, and married. His family lives next to a precarious hill, and he fears that rain could cause a landslide that would destroy his house. He would like to move to a safer part of the mega-camp.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 07/03/2018 -A funeral takes place in the Balukhali camp. Shak Karim, 65, is dead because of Acute respiratory infections. He was relocated in the new part of the camp where the health access was most difficult for him. During the period betwen August and December 2017 there were 273 reported deaths due to ARIs. Acute respiratory infections is the first cause of death among the refugees and woman who preprare the food, babies and elderly are the most exposed to the risk.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 7/03/2018 - A bamboo shelters in Kutupalong refugee camp. All the shelters in the camps have been built using bamboo and this bamboo come from Rangamati, an area located in Chittagong district where is cultivated. This area is suffering a big impact due to the over exploitation of this important resource.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 19/03/2018 - Khotiza Begum, 67 inside her new shelter. She was arrived in Bangladesh the 1st september 2017 but after only one week an elephant lost in the camp destroyed the family's shelter. The woman was seriously injured while her two grandchildren were killed in the attack. The Kutupalong mega camp is settled along elephants migratory paths and during the first months of the influx, panicked elephants got lost in the middle of the camps killing and injuring many Rohingya.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh,19/03/2018 - Some rohingya sheltering from the wind and the sand in a makeshi tent in Balhukali camp. With the deforestation implemented to set up the camps and to built the shelters now the soil is exposed to atmospheric agents and subject to a strong erosion which increases the risk of land sliding.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 21/03/2018 - A view of Kutupalong refugee camp at the sunrise. Kutupalong camp with the new extensions is now the biggest refugee camp in the world with more then 600000 people living in the area. The camps have been settled in the Teknaf reserve, a sanctuary for the asian elephnats used for their migratory paths. During the first months from the influx, many people were injuried or kiled by panicked elephants lost among the shelters.

  • Unchiprang, local village, Teknaf subdistrcit, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 06/03/2018 - A Bengali woman inside her house in the local village of Unchiprang. The village is located just 1 km from one of the Rohingya refugee camps (Unchiprang camp) and all the available water in the village is now polluted from the waste water coming from there. During the dry season people in the village didn't have safe access to water for basic needs as drinking, hygiene, laundry and to feed their animals.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, bangladesh, 13/03/2018 - Noor Hossain is a 30 years old rohingya and he was attacked and injured at the chest by an elephant in Lambaja, Kutupalong, on march 3rd. The two main rohingya refugees camps of Balukhali and Kutupalong are located on the main elephants paths and many people during the last months were injured or killed. "I was walking on the main road when i saw an elephant in front of me. We were about 15 people in the area and i start to run away but the elephant hit me. He got scared and angry, he was lost in the middle of the camp."

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong refugee camp, Ukhia subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 06/08/2018 - Rohingya women shelter from the wind in one of the new parts of Kutupalong-Balikhali refugee camp. (extension n.4). The International community with Rohingya labourers has worked for months to extend the megacamp and relocate people at risk of land sliding.

  • Musoni refugee camp, Teknaf subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 20/03/2018 - A group of children play in the top of a degrated hill in Musoni camp. The pressure on the local ecosystem is unsustainalble in the Ukhia-Teknaf subdistricts considering that before the exodus 336 thousands people lived in the area that now host more then 1 millions refugees.

  • Unchiprang refugee camp, Teknaf subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 08/08/2018 - A tree stands alone in the middle of the camp. The deforestation and exploitation of the environment is massive all around the area. According to the energy and environmental technical group of the ISCG, the entire forest land in Cox’s Bazar is likely to disappear this year.

  • Balukhali-Kutupalong, Teknaf subdistrict, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 02/03/2018 - A Rohingya woman collects leafs inside Teknaf Game Reserve. Leaves and roots are used both as fuel and ingredients for food. A UN report released in September 2018 has estimated that the refugees collect nearly seven thousand tonnes of fuelwood every month. In the absence of agricultural land and regular employment, the Rohingya are dependent on forest produce for most of their daily household needs.


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