The Department of Environment (DoE) has filed 129 cases over the illegal cutting of hills in Cox’s Bazar in the last 14 years.
As many as 561 people have been accused in the cases filed at various police stations, environment courts and special magistrate courts in the district.
The DoE says charges have been pressed in 39 cases, final reports filed in four cases. Eighty-six cases are currently under investigation.
DoE's Chittagong Region Director Md Masud Karim told the Dhaka Tribune that they were working to ensure quick disposal of the cases.
The last case was filed on June 22 against Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University Vice-Chancellor Prof Goutam Das, Registrar Mirza Faruk Imam, and Faculty of Fisheries Dean Prof Dr Nurul Absar Khan.
Hill cutting is mainly responsible for landslides that claim dozens of lives every year in Bangladesh. Landslides killed more than 150 people in Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachhari, and Chittagong this year.
Cox's Bazar district administration officials say around 100,000 people live on hilltops and slopes. These people will be in danger if landslides strike.
Cutting hills is not permitted under the Environment Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2010. No government, semi-government or autonomous organisation or person can cut or raze hills without prior approval of the authorities concerned.
The punishment for illegal hill cutting is two years' imprisonment or a Tk2 lakh fine or both. If the offence is repeated, the convict shall face 10-year imprisonment or be fined Tk10 lakh or both.
Under the terms of Building Construction Rules, 1996, clearance certificate must be obtained from the DoE before razing or cutting hills.