Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rains revive fear of Ctg landslides

Houses of people of the low-income group built on and around hill slopes in Moti Jhorna area of Chittagong city. The advent of the rainy season is putting residents of these structures at risk of landslides. The photo was taken recently. Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

Houses of people of the low-income group built on and around hill slopes in Moti Jhorna area of Chittagong city. The advent of the rainy season is putting residents of these structures at risk of landslides. The photo was taken recently. Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

Several hundred families, living on and around the hills in the port city, are exposed to landslides that may lead to fatalities anytime with the onset of the rainy season.
Despite the dangers, the people do not want to move out for not having alternatives. Experts, however, suggest authorities evacuate the occupants before any disaster strikes.
Landslides in Chittagong hills killed 28 people last year, 17 in 2011, 11 in 2008, and 127 in 2007, raising concerns about the safety of those living in illegal houses on the hilltops, slopes and in foothills.
“I fear landslide any moment as the rainy season began,” said Chittagong Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mannan, who inspected the hills at Lalkhan Bazar, Batali Hill, Tankir Pahar and Tiger Pass areas, on Sunday amid torrential rains.
The Hill Management Committee has identified 14 risky hilly areas housing nearly 1,000 families.
Abdul Mannan said authorities would take alternative steps to ensure safety of these people after consulting with different government agencies like the Public Works Department, railway, Wasa, and the city corporation who own most of these lands.
“We got scared when it rained heavily in the past, but not now anymore … even after announcement by the authorities,” said Samsunnahar, a resident of Moti Jhorna area.
She explained that they bought the land on the hill ten years ago for Tk 40,000, and that they had no alternative housing arrangements so that they could relocate.
Locals say influential people with political blessing grab land, build houses and sell these to the poor at prices ranging from Tk 20,000 to Tk 1 lakh, claiming they own the land.
Then the buyers of the houses consider the land to be their own, and do not want to leave fearing the land would be grabbed, said Nurul Islam Nuru, a resident of Moti Jharna.
Prof Jahangir Alam, vice chancellor of the Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (Cuet) and member of the Hill Management Committee, recommended that low cost apartments be built for rehabilitation of these people.