HEAVY rains and unabated hill cutting have intensified the risk of landslide, panicking people in Cox’s Bazar. About 20,000 families, as New Age reported on Sunday, live on the hill slopes there and other areas amidst landslide risks. Many people have also lost their lives in landslide in hilly areas during rains for some years. The Rohingya people who live in Ukhia and Teknaf also brace for possible landslide as a number of trees in the forested areas have been felled. More than 10,000 families in Badshaghona, Light House, Dakkhin Diggul, Dakkhin Hazipara, Pahartali, Sahikkika Palli, Ghonarpara, Marseillaise Para, Kalatali Adarshagram, Borachara, Baidyaghona, Mohajerpara, Link Road, Muhuri Para and Janarghora areas in Cox’s Bazar town are also at landslide risks. Reportedly, 10,000 families live amidst danger in the hilly areas of Ramu, Maheskhali, Teknaf, Ukhia and Pekua. Most of their houses have been built on government land by cutting the forest and hills owned by the district administration. For years, under the nose of the authorities concerned, vested quarters have occupied and cut hills and forest land for business purposes in breach of environmental laws.
It was, therefore, important to demolish the illegal structures from the vulnerable hills before the monsoon. As it was not done, the list of casualties could now be long if landslides occur in the areas. At least 54 people were killed in landslides in different areas of the district in 2010 and the number of death in landslides was 200 from 2010 to 2017 in the district. Such deaths should be attributed to the fact that 5,341 hectares of land of the south forest department and 7,053 hectares of the west forest department had been grabbed along with hilly region. Given the economic hardship, people live on such land with the full knowledge of landslide risk during the monsoon. Any eviction drive only temporarily forces them to abandon the place. As the eviction drives stop, people return to the areas. While it would be a positive step to put an end to landslide deaths, it will not be adequate without a rehabilitation plan. The government now needs to relocate the families at risk to avert any further death from landslide.
The government also needs to develop a sustainable rehabilitation plan for these people. In order to prevent future encroachment on and illegal cutting of hills and forest, the government must bring illegal grabbers of land to justice who erected dwelling in the risky hills and on forest land for profiteering interests. It is also imperative for the government to chalk up and implement a comprehensive strategy on low-cost and safe housing for the poor and marginalised people of these areas.
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