Monday, January 27, 2020 | ePaper

Rampant eill cutting trigger calamities in Port City

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Chattogram Bureau :

Hills of the Port City are mainly razed for building construction, developing residential areas and road network. Indiscriminate hill cutting has triggered calamities like landslides that killed at least 230 people in Chattogram in the last decade. Unsustainable use of land and rampant hill-cutting were two major reasons behind the landslide vulnerability in the hilly areas of Chittagong.
Unlike other parts of the country, the hills of Chittagong region constitute of crumbling soil. It becomes vulnerable after heavy rainfall, if the surface is not covered with vegetation. The soil becomes heavy after absorbing rainwater and the steep slopes cannot bear the mass weight of the wet soil or mud, resulting in landslides. the situation was becoming worse due to hill-cutting.
The slopes are cut at 70-80 degrees, which increases the risks of landslides. Although mindless hill cutting is continuing under the very nose of the authorities concerned, no effective punitive actions are taken.
As per the Environment Conservation (Amendment) Act 2010, hill cutting is a cognizable offence and no government, semi-government or autonomous organization is allowed to cut or raze hills without prior permission from authorities concerned.
The penalty for cutting hills without approval is up to two years imprisonment, a fine of Tk2 lakhs or both for a first offence. For a subsequent offence the penalty is up to ten years imprisonment, a fine of Tk10 lakhs or both.
Under the terms of Building Construction Rules 1996, clearance certificate must be obtained from Department of Environment for razing or cutting any hill.
In addition to ignoring environmental regulations, such indiscriminate hill cutting is seen as a cause of disasters like landslides, which have killed at least 230 people in Chittagong in the last decade. Unlike other parts of the country, the hills of Chittagong region consist of crumbling soil so they become vulnerable after heavy rainfall if the surface is not covered with vegetation.  The soil becomes heavy after absorbing rainwater and the steep slopes cannot bear the mass weight of the wet soil or mud, resulting in landslides.
There is no risk of landslide if the hills are cut with a slope of 20-30 degrees (but) the slopes cut at 70-80 degrees increases the risks of landslides. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation for the Tk320 cr link road project on January 30, 2016.
Environmental economist highlighted the importance of sustainable development and said the environmental costs and benefits must be carefully weighed before taking up any policy and project. The damage done to the ecosystem should be taken into serious consideration before implementing any project," said Nobi, who is also an associate professor of Economics Department at Chittagong University.

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