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3 October, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Million people living in Chattogram hills amid landslide risks

In Motijharna area of the district, some makeshift houses are still being built for the poor to reside
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
Million people living in Chattogram hills amid landslide risks

More than a million people have been living on the slopes of 30 hills in the Chattogram district amid danger of landslides during monsoon. These 1.0 million people have been living hiring makeshift houses at lower rents in the 30 hills in Chattogram city, Sitakunda and Jangal Salimpur areas of the district amid risks. Available statistics reveal that 127 people died in landslides in 2007, 11 in 2008, 15 in 2009 and 2010, 17 in 2011, 23 in 2012, five in 2013, six in 2015, 17 in 2016 and 29 in 2017.  

A Divisional Hill Management Committee was formed after the death of 127 people in the deadliest landslide in 2007. However, the committee has failed to take any effective step in the last 11 years to prevent living on hill slopes amid risks. The activities of the committee are only limited to holding meetings during monsoon. The committee, however, came up with 36 recommendations. These include freeing the hills from illegal occupants, deforestation, rehabilitation of the people who live on hill slopes and stopping hill cutting, lease out and grabbing, to prevent such deaths. But the district administration was learned to have opted for having a temporary solution to the problem instead of implementing the recommendations.

Sources at the district administration said 30 hills have been identified as vulnerable to landslide. Of these, 12 were identified as vulnerable after the deadliest 2007 landslides. Some 666 families have been living in 12 hills in the city. Among them, 320 families living in Motijharna and Batali hills in Lalkhan Bazar, 186 families in AK Khan hill, five in Ispahani hill, 12 in hills in Lake City area, 27 in Koiballodham Biswa Colony area hill, 22 in Akbar Shah area hill, 11 in City Corporation area hill, nine in Foyes Lake residential area hill, 38 in Forest Research Institute Academy area hill, three in Nasiraband Industrial area and 33 in Jalalabad Housing Society area hills.

The local administration on April 11, 2018 conducted a drive to evacuate people from hill slopes but their move did not see any success. The additional deputy commissioner (tax) and member secretary of the Divisional Hill Management Committee said, "We'll conduct a drive in the hill areas soon, it's our routine work every year. Those who are at high risk of falling victims to landslides will be evicted. We want to save them but they don't understand it as they get houses there at lower rents." The local administration, meanwhile, has decided to disconnect power, water and gas supply lines to the houses on the hill slopes as part of forced evacuation like the previous years.

But in Motijharna in the city, some semi-pacca and makeshift houses are still being built for the poor to reside. It is known that some influential people are building makeshift houses in the area and encourage people to live there at lower rents. According to local residents of Anwar Shaheb Colony in Motijharna area, during monsoon every year, the local administration evicts them and snap power and gas links, but those connections get restored later.

As per the Divisional administration sources a letter has already been sent to the Prime Minister's Office with a proposal for the permanent rehabilitation of the people living in Sitakunda and Jangle Salimpur hills areas. The convener of Sachetan Nagorik Committee, Chattogram, said the long-term recommendations for rehabilitating these people still remained unimplemented. He stressed the need for identifying those influential people who have been building houses on hill slopes and encouraging people to live there.

A high profile team of district administration, Chattogram Development Authority, Bangladesh Railway and Chattogram City Corporation led by its Additional Deputy Commissioner (revenue) recently visited different areas of the risky hills. The district administration claimed that it has launched an eviction drive in different hilly areas of the port city ahead of the rainy season to avert possible loss of lives from landslides. During the drive several residents of the highly risky areas under Akbar Shah Police Station were evicted. Around 100 families were living in the danger zones including slopes of hills here. As thousands of people have been living on the slopes of hills, many of them die every year from landslides during the monsoon. The eviction team also slashed the supply of electricity and water to the houses during the drive.

The district administration came up with the move in order to avert possible loss of lives from landslides in the monsoon as the soil on the hills become softer and may trigger a landslide. It poses threat to the lives of the poor people dwelling on those risky hills pockets during the rainy season.

Some of the residents of the area, however, said that after the eviction drive, despite several notices have been served from the district administration, the families were still living in the hills in a very dangerous state. But they added that the authorities would gradually evict all families living in different risky hills in the city. It remains to be seen how far the eviction drive becomes a success.

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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