Thursday, October 19, 2017 | ePaper

Tragedy in the hills

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SO MANY people died from the sudden landslide in the hilly areas of Chittagong, Rangamati and Bandarban following the incessant downpour overnight on Tuesday. As per the latest report 141 persons including four army men from a rescue team were killed while score of others still missing. The victims have no doubt fallen to the angry outburst of the nature but in our view there is also a big manmade part of the tragedy and we don't know how the government and local administration can escape the responsibility. We are sorry for so many deaths.
The point is that landslide can hit hilly place any time anywhere during rainy season but the government responsibility is to make sure that nobody should be creating such vulnerable housing for the poor. It must also make sure that people are not living in risky environment and the local administration should create the necessary awareness about it. But as we see it was none of their business until the disaster has hit and the government is now busy to highlight its success in relief and rescue operation in the affected areas.   
Landslide is common in hilly areas in peak rainy season as we know but killing of so many people in a single day events over at least 20 spots just tell about the unspeakable horror that swept over the hilly districts.
Experts widely blamed cutting hilltops; destruction of trees and forest down the hills and raising unplanned shanty homes in the slopes for the heavy human tolls. Heavy downpour melted the soil of the hills as Chittagong Hill Tracts alone saw an unprecedented 300mm of rainfalls in the 24 hours. None of these areas has ever seen such rain in recent years. As a result, flood submerged the low-lying areas complicating the situation.
In our view conventional explanations blaming the nature are aplenty; but the foremost point is that we have no control over the nature and so there is no point blaming it either. But we can surely control our environment and create the mechanism how to keep hills protected, save them from erosion and also safely livable for human beings.
The most criminal things is illegal land grabbing in the hills by rich and powerful people. They are cutting hilltops to create plain land for housing, Local government leaders are either complicit to it or tolerating it under greater political pressure. The law enforcers and officials of the department of environment are also ignoring the illegal land grabbing and raising of illegal home that such owners put on rent mainly to settlers. The landslide has buried most such settler people because they are not aware of the know how that tribal people use to build homes and survive through challenges.
Media reports said the landslide hit the area only two weeks after cyclone Mora swept through the Cox's Bazar region flooding the habitats. But there was hardly any precaution. We must say illegal land grabbing in the hills must stop to stop destruction of the hills and forest. The government must end its silence. 

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