Vulnerability to landslides in Khagrachhari
Fifty thousand people inhabiting the hilly regions of Khagrachhari district are faced with the threat of landslides with the onset of rains. The news, disturbing though it is, is not really surprising. That is because of the enormity of the damage done to the environment already. The destruction of the hills, which in most instances has meant a slicing away at them, has now compounded the problem. Added to that is the rampant nature of the felling of trees and a building of homes and office buildings in and around the hills. Obviously, the destruction of the hills and the cutting down of the trees have been resorted to by the very people who now are worried about future landslides destroying their homes and lives.
The situation is a complex one. Back in 2006, the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association served a notice on the relevant government ministries, asking them to take action against elements plundering the hills. That does not appear to have worked. Indeed, a number of questions have by now arisen about the collusion resorted to by the police and local influential people where destroying the hills and uprooting trees are concerned. The result has been the probable making of an environmental disaster, as the worries of these people in Khagrachhari make clear. There is, therefore, a sense of urgency that must be brought into a handling of the situation. And that can begin through identifying the elements or bodies responsible for the massive destruction of the hills and the hacking down of the trees. They have simply and outrageously violated a government ban on such activities and so should be taken to task. Only in that way can a lesson be served on would-be violators of the law. At the same time, the authorities as well as social organisations must now undertake new afforestation programmes in the hilly areas as a bulwark against landslides and other such devastation. The hills, damaged though they are through human depredation, must be protected for all they are worth from now on.
The risks to life and nature arising from a molestation of nature cannot be ignored. Which is why action is needed now.