Landslide: Rehabilitate at-risk residents
Landslides are on the rise in Bangladesh and at the same time the number of casualties is on the rise and the concerns and risks are increasing. Landslides have recently taken place at different places in Teknaf upazila of Cox's Bazar and 5 members of the same family have been killed, according to news reports. Landslide at Rohingya camp in Balukhali Union, Cox's Bazar killed 5.
It is initially thought that such landslides could occur due to continuous rains and heavy rainfall. There are currently millions of Rohingya people in Cox's Bazar who are at risk of landslides. Outside of this, two and a half lakh local families are at risk of landslides. Many people are living in the hills at risk in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and many people die every year due to landslides during the monsoon season.
According to a statistic, more than two lakh people are at risk of landslides in Teknaf, Ukhia, Cox's Bazar Sadar, Ramu Chakaria-Pekua and other areas. Many Rohingyas have taken shelter in the mountains, cut down trees and large hills, and the mountain environment has been severely damaged in building their homes. According to geologists, such landslides are frequent due to indiscriminate deforestation and rock-cut.
Geologists also say that the mountains of Bangladesh are sandy and have many cracks inside them and when it rains heavily, water seeps in and causes landslides. According to experts, it is very difficult to evacuate people from risky settlements at the foot of the mountain because the displaced people have no place to go and live here at risk. In addition, locals and influential people who illegally build houses on the foot of the hill and lease them there and build settlements there for commercial purpose.
After the landslide, various initiatives were taken, including evictions, but still the hills are being cut down and settlements are being made every year, and at the same time the risk of death is increasing. Landslides killed 127 people in 2007 and government initiatives were taken but the situation did not improve as expected. Experts say that there is still a lack of awareness about the landslide, which causes the death every year.
There are many reasons behind landslides in hilly areas and they are: 1. Unplanned and indiscriminate cutting of mountains 2. Uprooting the trees of hills and cutting down the hills and settle there 3. Heavy rainfall 4. Small earthquakes 5. Lack of proper planning 6. Road construction in hilly areas 7. Unplanned development planning 8. Carrying out development work without adequate testing of soils of hills 9. Construction of brick kilns in hilly areas and cutting of hill soil and taking soil to brick kilns 10. Unplanned shifting cultivation and cultivation of other crops and commercial cultivation without analysis of hill soil type 11. Extraction of rock and sand from the hills 12. The closure of drainage opportunities in the mountains 13. Climate change 14. Soft nature soils 15. Increasing population pressure in the mountains 16. Leasing the hills and using the hills on a commercial basis.
Each land has its own capacity and if this capacity is exceeded, nature will retaliate according to its own rules and the hill areas has its own capacity and if it is destroyed, landslides will occur. A committee was formed after the 2007 landslide and the committee's recommendations could not be properly implemented. One of the recommendations of that committee was to stop cutting down the hill but this cutting is not going to be stopped in any way but it is increasing day by day. Strong laws have been enacted by the Department of the Environment to stop cutting hills, but proper implementation of those laws has not been observed.
It cannot be brought under control unless severe punishment is ensured against those who are clearing mountain forests and cutting down mountains indiscriminately. One of the main reasons for landslides is over-settlement in the mountains and those who have never lived in the mountains are being given the opportunity to live there and are unable to understand the mountain environment. These outsider people consider mountain soil as a plain land and cultivate it at their own whims and mow the soil, causing landslides to occur frequently.
Housing and industrial establishment by cutting down hills is a cause of great loss to hills. This is due to the fact that houses are being built in the hills, rented out commercially, and trees are being cut down to build furniture businesses, and the mountainous region is being ruined through corruption. Due to the cutting down of large trees in the hills, the soil in the hills is being eroded rapidly and as a result landslides occur immediately after the rains.
Large trees are no longer seen in mountainous areas and small trees can never hold the mountain soil tightly, leading to landslides. 9% of the total hill forest in the country is located in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, there are 77.3% hills, 19% hillock and 3.3% plain land. Mountains have at least three types of tree layers and the mountain structure survives for tree roots and landslides occur only when these trees are destroyed.
A large number of Bengalis have been rehabilitated in the hills and those who are not aware of the mountain environment as there is a huge difference in the way of life of the Bengalis with the hill people. And this difference in their way of life is having a negative impact on the mountains.
However, landslides are a natural matter and it is also caused by human activities, and if these man-made causes are brought under control, landslides and mortality will be reduced. Any type of infrastructure has to be done keeping in mind the layout of the hills and with a thorough survey the infrastructure can be built in the hilly areas. If there is a need to build a road in the mountains, it has to be done by coordinating engineers with geologists and not in any other way. Natural forests in mountainous areas must be protected at all costs, and those who deforest must be severely punished, and cutting hills must be stopped. If the hill-cutting cannot be stopped, there is a possibility of a major environmental catastrophe.
Infrastructure can be built in the hills in compliance with environmental laws and flat housing must be ensured for the uprooted people living in the hills. New settlements in the hills must be stopped and large trees including bamboos must be planted. All brick kilns in hilly areas must be removed and all commercial activities in hilly areas must be stopped. Mountains are our natural resource that perfectly preserves the balance of the environment and if we destroy these mountains, we will inevitably face disasters.
The writer is assistant professor, B A F Shaheen College Kurmitola, Dhak