Don’t dump on the environment
It is highly disappointing that Chattogram's Banshkhali municipality authorities are building a garbage dumping station by destroying two hills, putting the environment of the area in danger in the process. Almost 10,000 square feet of the two hills have reportedly been cut. Two excavators were spotted razing the hills, while three dump trucks were seen transferring the soil by a reporter of this daily. According to sources, these hills have been cut down over the previous three to six months. A local municipality councillor has even claimed that the mayor has chosen the hilly area over other alternative sites so that the hillocks can be razed and the soil can be sold for a profit. If true, this is not only alarming, but downright horrific.
Local leaders should not be able to misuse their power in such a manner, especially when it is common knowledge that the action will cause damage to the environment on a grand scale. The mayor's alleged actions are criminal, and must be dealt with by the authorities as such. The applicable fines and imprisonments should apply to the person(s), no matter their proximity to power.
We are also appalled by the sheer callousness shown by the various relevant authorities regarding this matter. Cutting a hill without the approval of the Department of Environment (DoE) is prohibited under the Bangladesh Environment Protection Act, 1995 (amended in 2000), but this is still a common practice even after years of protests and activism on this issue. As per data from the Bangladesh Environment Forum, 120 hills disappeared from Chattogram city over the last four decades. The port city had 32.37 square kilometres of hills in 1976, which has declined to 14.02 square kilometres in 2008. According to the statistics, there were 200 hills in the port city 40 years ago, and 60 percent of those have now vanished. This raises the question of whether this is just callousness or a case of criminal negligence by the local administration and the DoE.
Unscrupulous parties have been destroying the natural beauty of Chattogram city for personal gains for a long time. This needs to be stopped immediately. The Department of Environment (DoE) needs to step in and assert its authority to stop this onslaught on the environment. The local administration also has the duty to intervene to curb this blatant abuse of power by the politically influential quarters. In this case, the local UNO said that the mayor had promised to take legal action against those involved in the illegal act. But the question remains: why were steps not taken earlier, before the hills were cut down?
Even if the DoE charges the parties responsible for cutting down the hills with fines, it is unlikely that the larger trend of hill cutting for financial gains will stop in the port city. Though many businesses have been fined by the DoE already, razing still goes on unabated. It is clear that something more comprehensive is necessary to stop this hill-cutting spree in Chattogram. The local administration as well as the government must prove their political commitment to work together to protect the environment of the city.