There are some 600,000 of them, Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, huddled across very steep and very bare slopes in an area of Bangledesh called the Kutupalong-Balukhali settlements. They're huddled close together, living in bamboo huts covered in tarps, waiting for the coming monsoons and maybe a cyclone or two that may kill them off en masse.
Before the Rohingya started crossing into Bangladesh from Myanmar in large numbers in the summer, fleeing attacks on their villages by the army and allied mobs, the hills were dotted with forest.
But then, in a matter of weeks, as refugees poured in by the tens of thousands, trees were hacked away. Canals were dug. Bamboo-and-tarp shacks went up. More trees were cut as refugees scrambled to find firewood.
The hills, where elephants recently roamed, are now bare. Even the roots have been pulled out, leaving nothing to hold the parched soil together as rainwater washes downhill, potentially taking tents and people with it and quickly inundating low-lying settlements. The United Nations says 100,000 refugees are at acute risk from landslides and floods.
Meanwhile the race is on to find available level ground to relocate refugees from the most vulnerable hillside settlements before the Monsoons arrive.
|A Monsoon disaster waiting to happen.|