Monday, December 4, 2023

Landslide spectre looms over port city once again

Authorities least concerned
July 2: More than 5,000 people in the port city are now living in different slum areas that have mushroomed on the slopes and foots of mostly denuded hills. Comfortably oblivious of the past catastrophic mudslides, these slum dwellers are exposing themselves once again to monsoon mishaps that have, in the recent years, become an annual orgy of deaths and destruction.
With the advent of the rains this year, they may fall victim to landslides any time. The city has been experiencing heavy downpour over the last few days resulting in rain-related urban hazards.
Monsoon landslides have claimed scores poor slum dwellers in the city.
The slums are developed at Matijharna colony situated at the foot of Batali hill, Chittagong Cantonment area, Pahartali, Kaiballyadham in Feroz Shah colony.
After every fatal accident, the concerned authorities have in the past taken up steps to rehabilitate the affected slum dwellers at safer places. But the effort did not materialise. Moreover, there were few initiatives to stop people from erecting shanties at foothills.
It may be mentioned that on June 11 in 2007, 127 slum dwellers were killed and more than 100 wounded in an unprecedented landslide in and around the city. Heavy downpour causes the landslide. Around 300 people were killed in landslides in Chittagong during the last few years.
Experts have opined that hill cutting is one of the major causes behind landslides in Chittagong. It may be mentioned that some 100 hills in and around the port city have already been levelled, threatening the environment. A group of miscreants are engaged in destroying the hills for a long period in connivance with a section of the police and local influential persons. Most of the hills were damaged during the last six years despite the ban on hill cutting. 
Almost all the hills in the city are leveled to develop residential areas. It may be mentioned that a huge number of residential plots have been developed in the areas that once were covered by hills. 
The seven categories of people who are held responsible for catastrophes involving hills are local goons, influential political persons, truck owners, contractors, brick kiln owners, real estate developers and a section of government officials. Of them, the most powerful ones are the local thugs with influential political quarters pulling strings from behind the scenes, sources have said.
The areas that have been most severely affected by hill cutting are Khulshi, Panchlaish, Sholoshahar, Baijid Bostami, Foy’s Lake, Lalkhan Bazar, Oxygen Intersection and the Polytechnic area.
It may be mentioned that after the worst-ever landslide in 2007, the government had formed a committee to probe into the incident. The committee submitted a report to the government. According to the report, 28 reasons were identified for landslide in Chittagong. The reasons included unplanned housing projects, rampant hill cutting, establishment of brick fields and illegal dwelling in the hill side areas etc for the landslide.
The same report also proposed 36 recommendations to save Chittagong from landslide. It recommended stopping hill cutting, prohibiting the establishment of brick fields within 10km of hills, stopping giving permission to the housing companies and persons for construction of any housing within 5km of hills, stopping giving of lease of hilly land or hills to indivuals or associations, taking legal action under criminal laws against those people who cut hills after taking lease, investigation of negligence of police during duty at spots of hill cutting, investigation of misappropriation of money that was earmarked for afforestation of the hills, taking action against the illegal occupiers of hills and hilly land etc.  To the port city people’s utter dismay and woes, the recommendations have yet to be implemented.
Courtesy of The Independent

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