Death due to landslide: The result of lack of awareness
Landslides triggered by heavy rains have killed at least a dozen people in Rangamati on Tuesday, setting off another annual period of disaster, deaths and panic during the monsoon. Several others were believed trapped under tones of rubbles that buried their hillside homes. Such disasters are a common feature in Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) which comprises three districts -- Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban where thousands of homeless people have made temporary illegal shelters.
People of this region get more familiar with landslides during this period of time and have habituated to be buried under the loosened earth or arrange formal burial for their dead near and dear ones.
There is no precise number known for landslide deaths over the years but they certainly run past hundreds each year. Such disaster cannot be blamed only on the cruelty of nature but also on lack of awareness of the people and administration -- and on syndicates cutting down hills and denuding forests of trees illegally for building roads, expanding highways and for other constructions in populated hillside areas. This forced many people to move on the remaining hills and build shanties on their slopes. So when it rains heavily the lands on which the habitations have grown collapse and turn into a graveyard.
The authorities apparently shocked and literally having no concern for loss of lives and properties make fresh pledges after every mishap that they will address the problem of residences and move the tenants to safer locations -- and also take steps to stop cutting of the hills in the name of development.
Hill Tracts is a place where most people have no safety of life, especially from the orgy of natural calamities. The government should take immediate measures to relocate these people at risk to safer places -- like they are planning to relocate 100,000 Rohingya refuges to a river island Bhasan Char. Then why it was not considered for the threatened people in CHT earlier so they do not become victims of regular disaster and face deaths and injuries.
An old adage says "it's better late than never," finding new safe habitat for the vulnerable hill people should not wait any further. If some people don't want to move away leaving behind whatever they have they should be persuaded or even forced to go. But under no circumstances they should be subjected to calamities.
It is to be remembered that last year, during the monsoon, Bangladesh's most devastating series of landslides in a decade killed at least 170 people, 120 alone in Rangamati. During that time, experts blamed errant hill-cutting as the main cause of landslides. But still hill-cutting continues unabated and the risks to lives grow further.