Owners of 17 hills prone to landslides were given a month-long deadline, ending on May 15, to remove 835 families and empty the hills.
The hill management committee gave the ultimatum at a meeting yesterday, apparently in a move to prevent casualties during the upcoming monsoon.
The committee, led by Chattogram divisional commissioner, in the meeting held at the Circuit House, decided that if the families were not removed from the hills within the deadline, utility services including power, gas and water to those homes would be disconnected.
According to a survey by the Chattogram district administration, more than 5,000 people are living in the hills, under the threat of landslides.
Among the 17 hills under danger, 10 of them belong to private business owners and have 531 families living in them, while 304 families live on the other seven that are owned by various government organisations, the survey found.
The government organisations that own the seven hills include Chattogram City Corporation, National Housing Authority, Bangladesh Railway, Chattogram Wasa, Forest Department as well as the Roads and Highway Department.
An announcement for relocation will also soon be made through loudspeakers for the locals and residents of the hills, the meeting decided.
Besides that, leaflets would also be distributed, circulars would be published on local dailies and advertisements would be telecast on tv channels to raise awareness on landslides.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Mohammad Delwar Hossain, member secretary of the hill management committee and also additional deputy commissioner (revenue) of Chattogram, said that they asked hill owners to remove the families living under threat within one month.
He said, “There is no such place where we can relocate them [the families] permanently. The best solution for them is to go back to their respective areas.”
He added that if they rehabilitate them permanently, more and more people will move to the hills to be rehabilitated and that can't be a solution.
Mohammad Rubel, a resident of a home on slope of Batali Hill -- one of the risky hills, told The Daily Star that asking them to relocate without solutions for rehabilitation appears to be an injustice.
“We understand the threat to our life. We don't come here to live happily. We live here because it is affordable comparing to our income. If they care about our lives, they need to take more responsibility,” he said.
The district administration survey found a fall in the number of hills at risk which was 28 last year, but a rise in the number of families living under threat of landslides which was 684.
The administration issued letter in February to the government organisations and the other private owners to remove the settlements from their respective hills.
In the aftermath of the 2007 massive landslide in Chattogram, that claimed 127 lives, a high-powered committee formed by the government made 36 recommendations including rehabilitating the families permanently to safer place.
The recommendations included relocation of the families prone to landslide, rehabilitation to safer place, prohibition of any housing within five kilometres of hills, construction of a wall to protect the slopes and stopping indiscriminate sand extraction from hills among others.
The authorities, including Chattogram district administration and Chattogram City Corporation, could not comply with the recommendations even 12 years after the massive tragedy.
Another massive landslide in 2017 claimed at least 167 lives in greater Chattogram.