'If the illegal establishments cannot be abolished from the hills, deaths from landslides cannot be stopped'
Support has been sought from all the deputy commissioners to prevent landslides in the hills, said Forest and Environment Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud.
He was speaking to journalists after attending the first working session of the second day of the DC Conference at the secretariat on Wednesday.
During the first working session of the day, the Forest and Environment Ministry, Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry, and Food Ministry held meetings with the DCs, who are the heads of district administrations.
Anisul Islam Mahmud said: “We talked about hill cutting, leasing out forest land, encroachment on forests and rivers and river pollution, and how the DCs could be involved in preventing these. We also talked about the reforestation of 5,000 acres of forest land in Cox’s Bazar.”
Discussions were also held on the landslides in Bandarban, said the minister.
“The main reason behind deaths in landslides is the cutting of trees and illegal establishments on the hill sides.”
“Unlike hills in other places, ours are mostly earthen. So if the illegal establishments cannot be abolished from the hills, deaths from landslides cannot be stopped.”
Due to deforestation and illegal hill cutting, the hilly areas in the country have been facing landslides leading to scores of deaths every year. Moreover, housing the 700,000 newly arrived Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar has required deforestation on a lot of hills, making landslides even more probable.
“We have asked the DCs to be alert to reduce loss of lives due to landslides,” the minister said.
“The deforestation and hill cutting are no one person's fault. We have a massive population and we do not have enough land for them. That is why even when we evict people from the hills they keep coming back.”
A permanent solution to the problem has to be found, said the forest minister.
“We have to evict them permanently and create accommodation and rehabilitation for them.”
At the second working session, Agriculture Ministry and Fisheries and Livestock Ministry held meetings with the DCs.
The DCs were directed to keep the country’s law and order situation during election time normal, said Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, who attended the third working session of the day.
The distribution of fertilizer across the country has been smooth, so the issue did not come up in the sessions, said the minister.
“We have asked the DCs to be alert so that all the sugar cane is used for sugar mills, not to produce molasses.”
The DC conference, an annual meeting of the administrative heads in the districts around the country, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday.
The three-day event is particularly significant this year as DCs from all 64 districts are expected to be briefed on specific guidelines on government work ahead of the parliamentary election scheduled for December.
At least 18 working sessions are being held in this year’s conference where the DCs meet with ministers, advisers, state ministers, deputy ministers, and senior secretaries of different agencies under 52 ministries.