Immediate relocation of people exposed to landslides called for
It is indeed a matter of grave concern that, with the monsoon approaching, according to a New Age report on Saturday, people living at the foot of hills on the Chittagong University campus are exposed to landslide as the university authorities are yet to implement its decision taken in 2007, after the death of six persons in such an incident, to relocate them to a safer place. As mentioned in the report, more than 400 people—most of whom are the employees of the university—currently live at the foot of the hills there. Understandably, being well aware of the danger, they have virtually no alternative to living in such a vulnerable condition. The university authority, however, has done nothing to provide them with safe shelters other than asking them to ‘leave the risky foothills to avoid any further landslide’.
Meanwhile, according to another report of New Age published on April 1, around 50,000 people living at the foothills alongside hill-slopes at different parts of Chittagong city are at a high risk of landslide. Moreover, over 200 people across the city have lost their lives falling victim to such gruesome incidents over the last 12 years. Yet the authorities concerned have hardly taken effective measures to rehabilitate those hapless people.
What is more regrettable, the government is yet to take any significant step to stem hill cutting which has become rampant in recent times and is largely held responsible for frequent landslides. According to experts, although the hills of Chittagong are basically composed of ‘unconsolidated sedimentary rocks such as sandstone, siltstone, shale and conglomerate’ and thus prone to landslide, it would be possible at least to reduce the frequency of such incidents, should the hill cutting be effectively prevented in the first place. Reportedly, lots of buildings have been raised flouting the Chittagong Building Construction Act that prohibits erection of any structure within 250 metres of a hill. Even most of the residential halls for students and academic buildings of the Chittagong University have been built near the hills. Besides, several of them have been built at the foot of the hills without any guide wall to prevent landslide. Overall, it is not too much of a stretch to conclude that landslide is largely a manmade disaster.
On almost every previous occasion involving landslide, it has been observed that there was a hue and cry over the steps to rehabilitate the vulnerable people and prevent further such fatal incidents only to sink into oblivion. The government needs to realise that its apparent inaction, if not unwillingness, to fulfill its pledge in this regard amounts to its general apathy to the poor and marginalised people. It immediately needs to take necessary measures to put an end to such a situation.
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