Risk of landslides mount amid monsoon
Risk of hill collapse and landslides amid monsoon mounts in Jaychandi union in Moulvibazar's Kulaura upazila as hill razing continues unabated in the area.
While the activity has numerous adverse impacts on the environment, there are still no visible measures from the authorities concerned to stop hill cutting and prevent any potential disaster.
During a recent visit to the area, this correspondent saw a local syndicate razing and levelling hillocks and mounds of around 20 feet in height next to a road in union's Panchpir Jalai area, disregarding environmental laws. They also sell the soil and stones illegally.
Seeking anonymity, some locals alleged that a local syndicate led by one Chan Mia of area Number 10 in the union is involved in the hill razing activities, while some government officials are on their payroll.
Local ward member Md Manu Mia said the syndicate members from the neighbouring area are cutting soil from the hillocks every day after midnight. They then transport the soil and stones using trucks and sell those in different places with the help of some locals.
The syndicate is so strong that most of the locals do not dare to speak against them. They also threatened them in the past, said Goni Mia, a resident.
The risk of landslides has increased manifolds and may occur at any time due to rainfall in the ongoing monsoon, said Konor Mia, another local.
If landslides close roads, it will result in immense suffering for locals, he added.
Besides, the presence of a mosque next to the hillock raises the possibility of a worse disaster, he added.
Hill razing is continuing right under the nose of the local administration and authorities concerned.
Two months ago, government officials went to the Bijaya Bazar area and seized a vehicle with hill soil after being tipped off. The vehicle, however, was later released for a fine of Tk 30,000.
However, hill razing is continuing right under the nose of the local administration and authorities concerned, Konor Mia said.
"We have recently held a meeting in this regard. I urged the construction of a gate on the road to stop the trucks. If they still cannot be stopped, legal action will be taken," said Jaychandi Union Parishad Chairman Abdur Rob Mahabub.
Contacted, Chan Mia refuted the allegations made against him and claimed someone wanted to tarnish his reputation.
Section 6 (Kha) of the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995 prohibits illegal cutting and/or razing of hills and hillocks, except for national interest with the necessary permission of the Department of Environment.
The maximum penalty for illegal hill cutting is 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of Tk 10 lakh.
Abdul Karim Kim, general secretary (Sylhet chapter) of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, said people hill cutters must face legal actions as such actions make an area prone to landslides in the events of heavy rainfall or earthquakes.
Mehdi Hasan, assistant commissioner (land) in Kulaura upazila, said "I will definitely find out and take action".