8000 people were evacuated and the government promised stern action against those responsible for the hill-cutting. “None whoever he is would be spared from stern legal consequences if found guilty for cutting hills. The government is determined to bring them book and ensure their punishments for who's lust more than one hundred innocent people made victims in landslide” the Communication Adviser, Matin threatened days later.
The Ministry of Environment and Forest and Chittagong Development Authority prohibited hill-cutting in 2005, but to no avail. Till date, 100 cases has been filed against culprits, with the verdict still not clear.
The latest example, and a shocking one at that, was when Development Organization of the Rural Poor (ironically) were accused of trying to grab the lands belonging to Tripura Nationality, in the hills of Bandarban and also another allegation against the father of two BNP leaders who forcefully grabbed the lands of locals in Khagrachhari. Both the cases are still being investigated and it is believed in many quarters that the hills of those places would soon be cut also for the purpose of 'development'.
Chittagong has been losing its hills at a rapid rate. Decades ago, the reason for cutting hills was to find new agricultural lands. Then, hills were not flattened but rather cleared of greenery and crops were planted. But now, the fault isn't the poverty stricken state of Bangladesh but rather greedy real estate developers, who cut hills and build houses to meet demands of huge mansions and flats, especially in areas like Sylhet where the expatriates are large in numbers and thus demand extravagant houses. Even in Chittagong, the lack of land and the prevalence of brick-kilns, demand for industrial space and residential areas, hill-cutting goes on, unabated.
Legal notices regarding hill-cutting were served to all bodies concerned including ministers and secretaries of environment, forest, land and public work ministries, demanding immediate action. Yet, the consequence of such is hard to see. 'I loved the hills, since I was a little boy. We cleared little forest for farming, but now too much is being cut. The scenery has changed and this is certainly not what we wanted.' Abdul Haque, a local in Khagrachhari replied when asked what he thought of this activity.
At least 50,000 people in Khagrachhari alone are vulnerable to hill slides, as they build houses and commercial buildings without proper planning and safety precautions. No initiative has yet been taken to re-habilitate the people in the most disaster prone areas. It's a sad day. And we witness not only the loss of our heritage but we also hear whispers of premonition, more disasters looming, more lives to be lost, and yet nothing is being done. False promises have blinded our eyes for long enough…
Culprits Identified, Actions Declared
The laws regarding hill-cutting where implemented and revised and set out by DOE are as follows-
2. Otherwise according to law he will be punished 10 years imprisonment or 10-lakh taka [$15,400] monetary punishment or both,
3. The government can give approval to hill cut/raze through a committee's approval whose head will be DC (highest ranked administrative officer in a district) and the main criteria for such approval are:
a. The cutting or razing of the hill shall not cause any serious damage to any hill, building, structure or land adjacent to or in the vicinity of the hill, or
b. The cutting or razing of the hill shall not cause any silting of or obstruction to any drain, stream or river, or
c. The cutting or razing of the hill is necessary in order to prevent the loss of life or property, or
d. The cutting of the hill is such as is normally necessary for construction of dwelling house without causing any major damage to the hill, or
E. The cutting or razing of the hill is necessary in the public interest.
4. Approval fee for hill cutting/razing: the fee is at least Tk10,000 ($165) or for bigger area 10,000 per “bigha” (1335.5 m2).
The fact that hills can be cut with permission and by providing a fee, do not state what is the criterion for granting permissions. The decision is left to a particular committee and thus this may lead to corruptions. Also members may not take into consider the long turn effects and feel that barren hills are better off being cut and turned into say, housing projects. The most important factor is that there is a lack of monitoring of the rules and thus hill cutting continues, affecting bio-diversity, the environment and beckons possible tragedies.
If something is really being done than it is deemed invisible. The poor people are not being helped and tribal people are losing lands, while Bangladeshis are losing the beautiful, scenic Bangladesh, of which we have been so proud of for so long. Something concrete needs to be done and it needs to be done fast. A hill can be cut in a matter of months but it can never ever be replaced again. Beauty can be tarnished, but not created by mankind. Natural beauty cannot, anyway. Let us all appeal to the government to look into this matter and find a solution, and fast.
By Osama Rahman
They are out there to get you
Its summer! All the time you spend being happy cherishing this season, I am just sorry to burst your bubble. As you run in the sun being merry (though I doubt anyone sane would do that), people are there in pain with the diseases that summer presents us with. While you are being run down by the thought of having those diseases, I thought of interviewing them. And if you call me insane, I'll make the diseases get u. *eevil laugh*
Firstly, I came across dehydration. The old bloke sluggishly sat on one corner, and it became cranky when I made water come in front of it. Anyways, dehydration is the most common summer disease. It makes your mouth is dry, and then you'll feel lethargic, you'll have a headache. It made me acquainted with the fact that it can do more. If it gives you a rare case of over hydration, you'll have a shortness of breath and swollen legs and organs. Scaaaaaaarrrry…! Then there comes fever along with the unconsciousness.
Prevention: Drink water!!! Drinking two cups of water in the morning and half a cup every half hour will do the trick.
Prevention: Bathing frequently helps keep the skin stay moist, drinking lots of water helps, and if serious, ask the doc!
Rating: 10/10. Try living with bad skin!
Prevention: Get cool shades!
Prevention: Nothing, not one. You're screwed. Hah! Well, that's only me… you always have the doc for help.
Rating: 9.5/10. Yeah, it messes you up.
Prevention: Once again, water…
Till then, enjoy the vices of summer, as well as the good parts, and enjoy. Drink plenty of water and stay safe.
By Raida Kifait Reza
Although she and I hardly correspond with each other now, making friends online was indeed a great way to meet new people and learn about different cultures and lifestyles for me. With the beginning of sites like Friendster and MySpace and the immense popularization of MySpace, Facebook and Orkut, connecting with people online has become simpler, easier and cheaper. It's helped millions all over the world connect with old friends, make new ones, and share their thoughts, videos and photos. 'I love networking online' gushes Munayem, 17 years old. 'Facebook has completely changed how I connect with friends and what I do online. It makes connecting much easier.' Other networking sites like Shaadi.com and Match.com help singles find dates or life partners with the sites letting you state yours preferences and interests and then setting you up with people with a successful 'match'.
However is it all good and fun over the internet? Many vulnerable people, such as youngsters or older persons may be exploited over the internet, either financially or sexually. In 2002, a 13-year old girl from Connecticut, Christina Long had a promising life ahead of her. However she made friends with strangers over the internet and in the May of that year, she was found strangled to death with the police believing that she had met her killer online.
Although all relationships do not have to end on such extreme terms, there is no use denying that the internet allows its users to hide behind a wall of secrecy. 'I met a guy once in an online dating site last year' explains Mayeesha, a 21 year old. 'He seemed really nice and funny and on his profile he described that he was 5 feet 9 inches and he looked cute on his profile picture. Imagine my horror when me finally sends me his real picture after many months, and I see he is actually 5 feet 3 inches and going bald!' Users have the ability to lie about their height, weight, what they do, just in fact about everything right down to their name.
Chat rooms have also become a source of concern because of the real danger it provides to kids meeting unwanted strangers. The appeal of anonymity is very reassuring as many kids unburden things about themselves over the internet under a different name making it easier for people who want to take advantage of them predators to do so. The internet is a wonderful way to make friends with people you know and don't know. It opens up an array of opportunities to meet people you find never have otherwise. However, unregulated or without good sense, it can become a dangerous place to meet those who you would have found shiftily loitering around your school yard a decade ago. Parents should talk to their teens about the danger of the internet and set up clear rules about internet usage. Don't let other people ruin your experience of the World Wide Web.
By Nisma Elias
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