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Can Nature Re-place those whom it Displaced?

By Hannah Sim

Today, there are 890,000 displaced Rohingya refugees from Myanmar “living” in Bangladesh (Rohingya Refugee…; Reid; Khan et al. 1). The Rohingya, a Muslim minority ethnic group, have faced years of discrimination and persecution for their faith, Islam, in predominantly

Buddhist Myanmar (Reid). According to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, since 2017 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have fled to Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar region, joining the 200,000 Rohingya from years before; more than half of them are women and children (Rohingya Refugee Crisis…). The yearly monsoon seasons in Bangladesh bring miserable conditions—heavy rainfall and flooding (Reid)—and the refugees’ makeshift shelters made of bamboo and tarp aren’t enough to withstand these high-risk conditions (Rohingya Refugee Crisis…). Further, the rainy conditions increase the risks of disease—including hepatitis, malaria, dengue, and chikungunya—prone to spread under crowded camps and unsanitary facilities (Rohingya Refugee Crisis…). Experts agree that summer monsoons will become stronger and more unpredictable as climate change progresses (Earth Institute). Anja Katzenberger, the lead author from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research University, stated, “For every degree Celsius of warming, monsoon rainfalls will likely increase by about 5%,” (Earth Institute). In fact, after typhoon Mangkhut in 2018, almost 2 million new displacements were created in India (Global Report…). To resolve the refugees’ homelessness in both countries, there should be a switch from the temporary shelters in Bangladesh to permanent settlement, and resettlement to locations in India that can be environmentally restored. If the Bangladeshi government sees enough benefits from granting residence to the Rohingya, these changes may occur.

In order to convince the Bangladeshi government to allow the Rohingya permanent citizenship, the Rohingya must contribute to the Bangladesh economy. Using mangrove tree planting as a stable source of income for themselves and a benefit to the Bangladeshis could provide that contribution. International refugee organizations like CREL are already bringing mangrove tree planting projects to Bangladesh (India: Climate…). Tree planting can generate sufficient income for the Rohingya refugees, and additionally benefit Bangladesh because of mangroves’ ability to combat the disastrous effects of monsoons (Raj). Economically, 12.3% of annual per capita income in Bangladesh ($1466) is saved by planting 1 km of mangrove forest (Nouval). Furthermore, the trees increase fish hauls and provide other income by acting as natural habitats for shrimp and fish species and providing salable wood (Marine Fellows, Nouval). To provide homes for the Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh may be able to grant permanent residency in parts of the country devastated by monsoons that could be restored. India can use the same tactic to resettle their displaced citizens.

Tree planting can become the dominant work of the Rohingya in Bangladesh. Mangrove trees have the ability to survive in saline water and reduce the impact of floods, according to Jurgenne Primavera, a marine scientist from the Philippines (Raj). Moreover, mangroves can mitigate the effects of climate change with their high rates of carbon capture (Marine Fellows). Planting mangrove trees as employment would allow more opportunities for both displaced Indians and Rohingya refugees to generate income. This would be advantageous for all sides and could convince the Bangladeshi government to grant the Rohingya lasting homes.


Works Cited

Earth Institute. "Climate Change Is Making Indian Monsoon Seasons More Chaotic." State of the Planet, 14 Apr. 2021,

"Global Report on Internal Displacement." IDMC,

"India: Climate Change Impacts." The World Bank, 19 June 2013,

Khan, Daud, and Leila Yasmine. "The Rohingya--The Forgotten Genocide of Our Time." SIRS Issues Researcher, 9 Jan. 2019,

Marine Fellows. "Mangroves Mitigate Effects of Climate Change Provide Local Economic Benefits." The Pew Charitable Trusts, 21 July 2021,

Nouval, Bagas, et al., editors. "Economic Valuation from Direct Use of Mangrove Forest Restoration in Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan, Indonesia." National Library of

Medicine, 29 Mar. 2019,

Raj, Suhasini. "Facing Disastrous Floods, They Turned to Mangrove Trees for Protection." The New York Times, 10 Apr. 2022. The New York Times,

Reid, Kathryn. "Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Facts, FAQs, and How to Help." World Vision, 25 Mar. 2021,

"Rohingya Refugee Crisis." OCHA,

"Rohingya Refugee Crisis Explained." UNHCR, 25 Aug. 2021,


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