Landslide disasters, inept ministry

Update:

Exactly one year since 120 people were killed in a landslide in Rangamati last year, this year on the same day 11 people were killed in a landslide in Naniarchar. This is the result of apathy, incompetence and irresponsibility. Every year men, women and children meet their deaths in one landslide after the other, but the concerned persons and institutions remain impervious.

According to a report of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (Bangladesh Environment Movement), hundreds of thousands of people in Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Bandarban, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar live at the foot of the hills, at the risk of their lives. The South Asia Disaster Report also has dubbed Bangladesh as a natural disaster prone area. . But what is the disaster ministry doing? It is the ministry’s responsibility to protect these people. Surely they can’t just restrict their duties to handing out paltry compensations to the kin of the deceased?

Landslides take place due to excavating hills, cutting down trees and excessive rains. The environment protection act says that no hills can be removed or excavated without the permission of the department of environment. The hills of Bangladesh are made up of soil and held firmly in place by tree roots. But certain callous tree cutters are depleting these hill forests.

After the landslides last year, the ministry for disaster management and relief formed a high-powered committee which recommended a halt to tree felling in the region. But the recommendation hasn’t been enforced as a law and so the government has taken no initiative in this regard. The local administration remains indifferent too.

According to Prothom Alo reports, the settlements which were destroyed in the landslides last year were unplanned and unsafe. The ministry report stated that ‘land grabbing and illegal settlements’ were the main cause of the disaster. But the disaster management minister has said that ‘everything is going according to plan.’ Yet a year has passed and the committee’s recommendations haven’t been implemented as yet. Is this ‘according to plan’?

These problems should not be ignored or denied. They must be faced and resolved speedily. The ministry must rectify its own disastrous incompetence before taking up its responsibilities of disaster management.

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