Dhaka, Bangladesh
70,000 living on Ramu hills amid a lot of risk

70,000 living on Ramu hills amid a lot of risk

Our Correspondent COX'S BAZAR, Dec 3: About 70,000 people of 11 unions under Ramu Upazila in the district are living amid a lot of risk on local hills. The district administration is yet to take any step despite some casualties and further possibility of such occurrences might happen from hill slides. Serious natural calamity may happen if steps are not taken to check the unabated hill cutting and illegal building of houses on the hills, locals said.. People living on the hills remain in constant tension and fear of landslide during prolonged rainfall. Recently, Morshed Alam, a two-year-old son of Zaker Hossen died in Lambaghona area of Dakkhin Mithachhari Union in the upazila. Besides, Zaker's house was also destroyed in the incident. Environmentalists alleged that local influential people are earning huge money through renting houses and selling land ownership illegally by grabbing hills. The authorities concerned doesn't have the exact data of illegal residents and establishments on the hills. In view of that about 15,000 families are living amid risk across hills at Joarianala, Kauarkhop, Dakkhin Mithachhari, Rajarkul, Garzania, Kacchapia, Rashidnagar, Eidgarh and Khuniapalong unions of the upazila. The unabated falling of trees and digging of hilly land, the areas have become risky, posing a threat of landslide at any place. Assistant Director of District Environment Department Saiful Asrab said mainly the Rohingyas are living on the hills. The local influential people use the landless people in their attempt to grabbing hills. While talking to this correspondent, he said, "We have so far detected 20 families who are living on different hills in the upazila. But the authorities concerned have not taken any legal steps in this connection. The situation will not be normal before removing the families permanently." While visiting Lot Ukhiarghona area in Kauarkhop Union, about 50 families were found living on the hills beside Ramu-Naikkhongchhari road. Khatiza Begum, daughter of Abdu Shukkur living on a hill foot, said they have been living here for long and compelled to live as they have hardly any place to go. While approaching through Lot Ukhiarghona road, government hills were found cutting here and there and one wooden house was also been built on the hill. A local people said one Rohingya Nurul Haque built the house couple of days ago, and the person is also involved in selling hill soil. Freedom fighter of Ramu Mojaffar Ahmed said serious natural calamity may happen if steps are not taken to check unabated hill cutting and illegal building of houses on the hills. The upazila administration and Forest Department are not taking any step against illegal residents on the hills, he alleged. Sources said there are many treeless hills and hillocks in nine unions out of 11 unions in Ramu Upazila. Landless and ultra poor people are living on these hills due to population growth and decrease of land mass. About 4,000 people are living on different hilly areas including Purba Joarianala Murapara, Kanthal Bagan, Jumchhari, Nandakhali Murapara, Uttar Mithachhari Pahariapara, Hospital Para, Guchhagram, Purba Nonachhari Paharia Para and Romonipara areas amid risk. Chairman of Joarianala Union Parishad (UP) Kamal Shamsuddin Ahmed Prince said hill slide is likely to occur at Kanthal Bagan and Jumchhari areas. The families living on hills amid risk have been identified and they will be transferred to Ashrayan project. About 1,500 families are living on hilly lands at Lot Ukhiarghona Jharnarmura, Murarkacha, Teilapara, Napitghona, Godamkata, Kalarghona, Lamarpara, Purba Kauarkhop, Purba Monirjheel Pahariapara, Madhyam Monirjheel Chakkata, Sonaichhari, Paschim Monirjheel Dargapara, Madhyam Kauarkhop, Moishkup and Ukhiarghona areas in Kauarkhop Union amid risk. Chairman of the union Mostak Ahmad said about 500 families are living on hills amid risk at Lot Ukhiarghona Jharnarmura, Murarkacha, Teilapara, Godamkata and Purba Kauarkhop areas. He said, "I raised the matter in upazila monthly coordination meeting several times, but of no avail." Chairman of Dakkhin Mithachhari UP Md Yunus Bhutto said about 500 families are living on hills at Lambaghona, Cheinda, Shiapara, Kharuliachhari, Jinorghona, Panerchhara Paschimkul, Samitypara, Kala Khandakerpara, Ghonarpara and Morapara areas. Two people were killed in landslide during last year's rainy season, he informed. About 50 Rohingya families live here illegally, he added. Rajarkul UP Chairman Mufizur Rahman said about 2,000 families are living on hills at Villager Para, Ghonarpara, Hatirghona, Panjekhana, Dhalarmukh, Chhagoliakata, Kattolia Para, Paschim Ghonar Para, Chowkider Para, Dakkhin Sikderpara and Pahartoli areas in the union. Of those, Pahartoli area is riskier, he added. Fatekharkul UP Chairman Faridul Alam said 50 families live on hills at Haitupi Khenchar Ghona area in the union. Of them, 10 families are living amid high risk. Local people said most of the residents here are Rohingyas who entered Bangladesh over the years, but local administration or the Forest Department did not take any step against them. President of Environment Journalists' Forum, Ramu Upazila unit Khaled Shahid said no visible step to remove the illegal settlers on the hills has been taken yet. Due to lack of authoritative monitoring, more illegal settlers are crowding the areas day after day. Illegal and unplanned hill cutting is the main cause of hill slide. The influential people are cutting the hills illegally before the very nose of the administration. Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Lutfor Rahman said, "We have not data of the people living on the hills amid risk. We have informed the UP chairmen in this connection two months back. The residents have been cautioned about hill slide. We have information that some people are living on government lands and hills."

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