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Over a million people living on Chattogram hills at risk of landslides

  • Published at 01:29 am May 20th, 2018
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More than a million people are living on the slopes of 30 hills in Chattogram which are at risk of landslides during the monsoon season.

According to the Divisional Hill Management Committee, these people have been living by the 30 hills in the Chattogram city, Sitakunda and Jangal Salimpur areas of the district by renting makeshift houses at lower rates.

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.

Sources at the district administration said of the 30 hills identified as vulnerable to landslides, 12 were identified after the landslides in 2007. However, 666 families are still living on these 12 hills.

A total 320 families are living by the Motijharna and Batali hills in Lalkhan Bazar, 186 families by AK Khan hill, five by Ispahani hill, 12 by hills in the Lake City area, 27 by the Koiballodham Biswa Colony hill, 22 by the Akbar Shah area hill, 11 by the City Corporation area hill, nine by the Foyes Lake residential area hill, 38 by the Forest Research Institute Academy area hill, three by Nasiraband Industrial area and 33 by the Jalalabad Housing Society area hills.

The Divisional Hill Management Committee was formed after the death of 127 people in landslides in 2007. However, the committee has failed to take any effective steps to prevent people living on the slopes of hills in the last 11 years.

Sources claimed the activities of the committee are only limited to holding meetings during the monsoon season.

On the other hand, the committee has previously submitted 36 recommendations to prevent landslide related deaths, including calls to free the hills from illegal occupants, curb deforestation, rehabilitate people living on the slopes of hills, and stop the cutting of hills and leasing or grabbing of land near hills.

Nevertheless, the district administration have opted for temporary solutions rather than implementing the recommendations.

On April 11, the local administration conducted a drive to evacuate people from vulnerable hills but their move did not see any success.

When contacted, Additional Deputy Commissioner (tax) and Member Secretary of the Divisional Hill Management Committee Abdul Aziz said: "We will conduct a drive in the hill areas soon. This is routine work for us every year. Those who are at high risk of falling victim to landslides will be evicted. We want to save them but they don't understand as they get houses there at lower rent."

Meanwhile, the local administration has decided to disconnect power, water and gas supply lines to the houses on the hill slopes as part of a forced evacuation plan as in previous years.

During a recent visit to Motijharna in the city, it was seen that some makeshift houses were being built in the area.

Talking to the inhabitants of the area, it was learned that some influential people are building makeshift houses in the area and encouraging people to live there at lower rents.

Mohammad Raju, a resident of Anwar Shaheb Colony in Motijharna area, said: "During the monsoon every year, the local administration evicts us and snaps power and gas links, but those connections are restored later."

Divisional commissioner Abdul Mannan said a letter had 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 areas.

Delwar Majumdar, convener of Sachetan Nagorik Committee in Chattogram, said the long-term recommendations for rehabilitating these people still remain unimplemented.

He stressed the need to identify the influential people who have been building houses on vulnerable hill slopes and encouraging people to live there.