Rehabilitate people living on hill slopes
Speakers here at a roundtable yesterday stressed coordinated initiatives of government and non-government organisations and law enforcement agencies to rehabilitate the people living on risky hillsides in Chittagong and to discourage habitation there.
The meeting titled “Mass killing in landslide: prevention and our task” was arranged by Prothom Alo at Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) auditorium.
The low-income group people could be rehabilitated on 25 acres of land, whereas right now they are occupying around 525 acres of hilly land in the city, suggested the speakers.
They expressed the opinion that through their rehabilitation it is possible to free around 500 acres of land in the hilly areas.
They also stressed the need for formulating new laws to bring to justice the middlemen who are constructing slums and renting them out to the poor people.
At the meeting, Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) Mayor Manzur Alam said roughly 160 families are living on the hills owned by CCC.
“CCC has undertaken a project to rehabilitate them by building and providing houses, 250 square feet each, on CCC-owned land. The families would be given an opportunity to repay the cost of the house in 15 years,” the mayor added.
“If government organisations like Bangladesh Railway come forward and provide some of their land, it will not be difficult to rehabilitate around 1,200 families living on risky hill slopes in Chittagong division,” he stated.
One of the speakers and former CCC mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury said hill cutting must be stopped to save the hills and scenic beauty of the city.
“A lot of garment workers are living on the hill slopes,” he said, adding that the garment owners should construct dormitories for their workers. “It may reduce the rush of the poor workers to the hills.”
Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Jahangir Alam said many hill slopes have illegally been cut in 70 to 80 degrees angles. Landslides happen if the slope has greater than a 30 degree angle.
“We have the technology to protect the hills; all that is required now is good intentions of government, political leaders, and public and private organizations,” he added.
“We should adopt a policy of zero tolerance for hill cutting,” said Zafar Alam, director of the Department of Environment, Chittagong.
Moderated by Abdul Qayum, the meeting was addressed by Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon Chittagong Chapter President Prof Sikander Khan; Engineer Ali Ashraf, former President of Bangladesh Institute of Engineers', Chittagong Chapter; Architect Bidhan Barua; Deputy Police Commissioner of Chittagong Metropolitan Police Banaj Kumar Mazumder; Prof Shafique Haider of Chittagong University; Advocate Akhtar Kabir Chowdhury; and CCCI Director Mahfuzul Haque Shah, among others.