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Hill people at risk of mudslides

  • Published at 02:08 am June 13th, 2018
  • Last updated at 02:08 am June 13th, 2018
File photo: Bangladeshi fire fighters and residents search for bodies after a landslide in Bandarban on June 13, 2017 AFP

Incessant rains over the last days have put people living at different hilly areas in Chittagong, Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban at risk of landslides.

In the hilly areas, mudslides are a very common occurance, which every year leave scores killed, countless more wounded and their houses damaged.

Some 12 were killed in landslides Rangamati and Chittagong, caused by intermittent rainfall in the last few days.

In 2007 alone, a total of 168 people were killed and 227 others injured in landslides in the country’s three hill districts, according to data compiled by the government. 

About 3,075 houses were completely damaged and 36,637 partially damaged by mudslides the same year.

Though several hundred families are at risk of mudslides, local administrations in the districts have yet to find a proper and long-term solution in this regard.

While endangered inhabitants have long been demanding that the government find a permanent solution to address the concerns, initiatives of the district administrations remain limited only to delivering announcements through loudspeakers asking people to move to shelters set up by the government.

Rangamati people scared of staying at home 

While the entire country is preparing to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, the biggest religious festival of the Muslims, residents of hilly Rangamati are not able to stay in their homes, fearing landslides.  Such landslides had claimed over a hundred lives last year. 

On Tuesday, at least 11 people were killed in landslides in the Naniarchar upazila. Incessant rains over the last few days have caused inconvenience to locals, disrupting normal life and bringing communication services to a standstill. 

On Monday, landslides occurred in Deppochhari of Shapchhari, Shanbagan of Ghagra and Rupnagar area under the Rangamati Sadar upazila, disrupting road communication between Rangamati and Chittagong. 

“Locals have taken shelter in buildings in the town, fearing landslides. We have necessary measures to move vulnerable households to safer places,” AKM Mamunur Rashid, deputy commissioner (DC) of Rangamati, told the Dhaka Tribune. 

This year the administration has taken additional measures, marking danger zones ahead of the impending monsoons, he added. 

At least 15,000 people from over 3,000 families in southeastern parts of the district are at risk of mudslides, according to local sources.

Sources at the Rangamati DC office said the district administration and fire fighters were working together to move people to safety.

Six temporary shelters have already been set up in the districts, they added. 

No visible initiative by Bandarban administration

Despite 13 people being killed in landslides last year, the local administration in Bandarban is seemingly oblivious of taking measures to protect households living on vulnerable hill slopes, locals alleged.

Around 144 families are at risk of mudslides in the metropolis. Sixty-five of them live beside the Bandarban-Keranihat road, 60 beside the old road of Meghla Parjatan area, seven in Roangchari, and 12 in other landslide-prone areas.

There is a high risk of mudslides, given the amount of precipitation over the past few days, but those families have not yet been relocated. 

Amena Begum, a woman living in such a susceptible hill slope, said: “Every year we have to face severe landslide problems. We demand the government take immediate measures and make arrangements for us to live safely.” 

Locals attributed the rising incidents of mudslides to the indiscriminate cutting of hills and trees to build houses on hills slopes.

Sources at the district administration said they have taken initiatives and sent proposals to the government to set up three temporary shelters in Bandarban for living in vulnerable areas.

However, locals said the mere assurances were not enough to save people and their properties from landslides; rather, the authorities concerned should take all-out measures to address the problems.

Khagrachhari villagers trapped in floodwaters 

Thousands of people in Mohalchhari, Dighinala and Sadar upazila of Khagrachhari have been stranded in floodwaters. 

Earlier, on Monday night, several landslide incidents took place in Shalbon, Dighinala and Mohalchhari, and many shops and offices of local traders were submerged in the floodwaters at Merong Bazar. 

As the rain continues, locals fear that they might suffer more losses and damage due to the rising water levels in the Chengi, Maini and Feni rivers. 

Our Rangamati correspondent Bijoy Dhar, Bandarban correspondent S Basu Das and Khagrachhari correspondent Nuruchsafa Manik contributed to this article