While the administration is busy enforcing various directives of the government to contain the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, destruction of a hillock is going unnoticed in Juri upazila of Moulvibazar.
A contractor firm razed a large part of the hillock in Amtoil village in Pashchim Juri union to build a 960-metre-long road that runs in front of Union Health and Family Welfare Centre.
Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) awarded the work, worth Tk 45 lakh, to Sharif Enterprise under 'Rural Infrastructure Development Project' of the LGED. The work is scheduled to be completed within the current fiscal year (2019-20).
Locals said the damaged side of the hillock has already subsided following rain a few weeks back and they feared the possibility of casualty if the rest of the hillock subsides during this ongoing monsoon season.
During a visit to the area two weeks back, workers were seen compacting the base of the road, on the foot of the hillock, with rollers.
Shahidul Islam, a local, said a 50 foot stretch of the road that was carved out of the hillock has collapsed soon after the rain recently.
It was found that the barrier made of thick plastic sheets and bamboo -- erected by the contractor on the outer slope of the road in their attempt to avert collapse -- has given way to heavy rainfall.
Contacted, Zakir Hossain Khan, deputy assistant engineer of LGED in Juri upazila, said the LGED allowed the contractor to cut through the hillock as they needed to widen the road for smooth and safe movement of vehicles on its curves.
They needed to widen the road from seven feet to ten feet for the purpose, but locals did not agree to donate their land for it. Finding no other option, the LGED decided to allow the contractor to cut the side of the hillock.
Asked whether the LGED obtained permission to cut the hillock from appropriate authorities, Zakir said they did not think it was necessary as "the hillock was too small" and they did not anticipate any possibility of subsidence of the hillock.
Zakir further said they did not notice any subsidence of the hillock or the road as the area is covered with bushes.
However, he assured of constructing stronger protection barrier on the outer edge of the road, running alongside the damaged hillock.
Nurul Muhaimin Milton, general secretary of Moulvibazar Environmental Journalists' Forum, said landslides are rising due to unabated destruction of hills and stringent enforcement of applicable laws is needed to save the environment.
A section of influential locals has been illegally extracting stones and destroying hills with the connivance of officials concerned, said Abdul Karim Kim, executive member of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon.