Councilor should face action for destroying hills in Chattogram

Authorities are not seen to take effective actions against the indiscriminate destroying of hills across Chattogram. The perpetrators are so powerful and influential that they don’t even bother to follow the Hight Court ruling. Besides influential persons, many government agencies allegedly are involved in cutting down hills

According to Prothom Alo reports, the area of the three hills located in the northern hills of the Akbar Shah area of the city was 8.60 acres. But currently only 20 per cent remains. Local councilor Zahurul Alam occupied the land of the remaining hills. He is also the leader of the ward Awami League. Local residents and environmental activist Shafiqul Islam Khan said in a formal complaint on 28 December that councilor Zahurul Alam has been cutting down hills since 2014. His associates are carrying out the task for him.

The councilor himself not only occupied the hills but also cut down the hills and sold the land as plots. Zahurul Alam established a private elementary school named after his father by cutting 50 per cent of a three-acre hill in the neighboring Beltalighona area. There is a government primary school within half a kilometre though. This councilor has no regard for the law. Despite the Department of Environment filed three cases against the councilor and his wife, they did not stop destroying the hills.

The explanation rendered by the Department of Environment in this regard is also not up to the mark. They claim, a committee consisting of CDA and City Corporation has been formed. How would the committee perform neutrally when the councilor who occupies the hill is under the same city corporation?

When Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan went to Akbar Shah area to see the hill cutting where she was stopped by the councilor's men and they pelted stones at her car. It is to be noted that in 2015, BELA filed a writ in the High Court against hill cutting in the Lake City area. There was allegation of cutting 10 acres of hilly area. In 2020, even after the court issued a ruling regarding the protection of the hills in the area, the destroying never stopped.

Not only in Akbar Shah area, the hills of many areas in Chattogram are being destroyed. According to the information of the Department of Environment, from 2003 to January 2022, about 135 incidents of hill cutting have occurred in the Chittagong metropolis.

The Department of Environment has filed about 60 cases against the fellers for the crime of cutting hills. But most of the cases are pending due to lack of charge sheet and evidence. According to Bangladesh Environment Forum, since independence till 2008, 88 hills in Chattogram have been destroyed while 95 have been partially cut.

A councilor is a public representative. His duty is to take legal action against someone who destroys the hills. Instead, he himself became the perpetrator. Where there are such people's representatives, protection of hills and natural resources cannot be expected. Strict action should be taken against this councilor immediately.