Access to Cleaner Cooking Energy – Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)
Since September 2018, UNHCR and IOM have been distributing LPG as cooking fuel to all refugee households to meet their basic needs and mitigate climate change. LPG is a cleaner and more efficient alternative to firewood and has become the primary cooking fuel used by refugees. The distribution of LPG has had a significant environmental benefit by reducing carbon emissions, deforestation and associated disaster risks, protection risks such as gender-based violence and negative health impacts due to smoke inhalation. It also promotes food security, nutrition, and peaceful coexistence in the camps by reducing competition for resources. To enhance fuel efficiency, UNHCR has initiated pre-pilot testing of pressure cookers.
Access to Lighting, Electrical Energy and Lightning Protection
UNHCR has installed thousands of solar streetlights across all camps to improve access for refugees to water and sanitation facilities and to mitigate gender-based violence risks. facilities and to mitigate gender-based violence risks. UNHCR is supporting a community-based maintenance strategy for the solar streetlights, promoting continued operation and maintenance of these important assets. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions from diesel generators, and support lighting, UNHCR has installed and maintains solar mini grids to power health facilities, camp offices, communal facilities, with renewable energy to mitigate climate change. To protect refugees from the risk of lightning strikes, UNHCR has installed lightning protection systems across the camps and in newly constructed facilities where required.
Environment and Ecosystem Rehabilitation
UNHCR and partners engage refugees and local Bangladeshis to rehabilitate the environment, clean up and prevent pollution of waterways, increase resilience to climate shocks by reducing disaster risks from landslides, floods, droughts, and fires with an emphasis on nature-based solutions. These includes plantation for slope stabilization and water quality management and the establishment of water reservoirs for various uses. Climate Action through revegetation with mixed species is underway with quality planting materials grown in two nurseries including trees, bamboo, and grasses to enhance soil erosion control. Toddy palm seedlings are also being planted as a nature-based solution to provide additional protection of refugees against lightning strikes in line with the Government of Bangladesh’s strategy. To ensure the sustainability of interventions, rapid environmental impact assessments are undertaken, and communities, especially youth, are engaged with environmental education training and sensitization on the importance of environmental conservation.
Sustainable Land Management and Environmental Rehabilitation Project (SsuLMER)
Recognizing that both refugee and host communities live in a shared environment and can be affected by upstream conditions, UNHCR and partners are working to holistically rehabilitate watersheds, which are areas or basins of land where all the streams and rainfall drain to a common outlet. This multi-sectoral approach promotes climate resilience as well as peaceful coexistence and involves stream excavation, bank protection, slope stabilization, revegetation, plant-based wastewater treatment, drainage improvement and construction of silt traps, water reservoirs and firebreaks. Community consultations have begun with refugees on relocation to safe alternative shelters outside the watershed.
Wildlife Conservation and Human-Elephant Conflict Management
Since the establishment of the camps after the 2017 influx, the risk of human-elephant conflicts remains a protection concern for both the refugee and the host communities who live in the migration corridor of one of the last remaining herds of wild Asian elephants. To mitigate human-elephant conflicts in the camps and surrounding areas, elephant response team volunteers are trained and equipped with torches and loudspeakers to deter elephants to the nearby forests; they use 99 elephant watch towers to guard the camps. Thorny plants and beehives are being established along the camp boundaries to act as natural deterrents to elephants. Volunteers are also involved in wildlife rescue including snakes that are transported to the local wildlife centre operated by the Bangladesh Forest Department.
SAFE Plus 2: UN-Joint Programme
In close coordination with the Government, UNHCR leads the second phase of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy Plus (SAFE+2) Joint Programme with FAO, WFP, and IOM. The programme seeks to enable safe access to sufficient and cleaner cooking energy for all refugee households; to rehabilitate and protect degraded environment and ecosystems in the camps and surrounding areas; and to increase resilience among refugee and host community households.
With the Government, UNHCR and partners are working to mainstream Climate Action initiatives to mitigate, adapt and increase resilience to climate shocks on Bhasan Char. Environmental protection is being mainstreamed in close coordination with livelihoods and WASH sectors. Wildlife conservation interventions are informed by a completed biodiversity assessment and in consultation with the Bangladesh Forest Department. Energy access and safety is being enhanced by retrofitting existing electrical and solar systems to offer services to refugees including registration and health facilities. UNHCR’s partners are monitoring existing street lighting and lightning protection systems and will establish community-based structures for ongoing care and maintenance. In collaboration with operational partners that are currently distributing LPG, UNHCR will support cooking energy efficiency through needs assessment, training and pilot use of existing biogas installations and introduction of pressure cookers. UNHCR-BDRCS are maintaining the batteries for the solar systems in the Multi-Purpose Cyclone Shelters and refugee houses that power lighting and solar water pumping in the clusters.