The government, to mark Mujib Barsho -- the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman -- this year, is going to hand over thousands of houses to the homeless all across the country.
In Moulvibazar alone, under the first phase of Ashrayan-2 project of the Prime Minister's Office, it will hand over 1,126 houses on January 23 this year.
However, such a great initiative might not bring smiles to the 300 recipients in Srimangal upazila.
Even though annual rainfall records in Srimangal remain in the top five figures of all upazilas in the country, the government land where most of these houses are being built in Srimangal is surrounded by hillocks, covered in natural vegetation or tea plantations, and is prone to flash floods as well as attacks by wild animals.
But instead of taking the local environment, climate or topographical aspects into consideration, the houses in the upazila are being constructed right beside the hillocks and without constructing any elevated platform or foundation.
During a visit to Srimangal's Bishamani area, where 27 houses are being built under Ashrayan-2, this correspondent came across many of the structures that were erected right at the bottom of hills of different sizes.
According to the architectural design, each unit for one family is allocated 285 square feet of area -- with two bedrooms, one kitchen, one toilet and one veranda. The estimated cost of construction for each unit is Tk 1.71 lakh.
Without using reinforced cement concrete (RCC) columns or beams embedded with steel rebars, the exterior wall and foundations of the structures are being made of plain bricks, keeping the base platforms of the houses no higher than 1.5 feet from the ground.
Sadek Mia, a local, said the houses will not be suitable for human habitation as not only the rooms in each unit are too small, but the houses, built in close proximity to hill slopes, are also likely to be flooded during flash floods triggered by downpour in the monsoon.
Moreover, the houses may not withstand mudslides from the hills or flooding during the wet season, as foundations of the houses were not dug deep enough below the ground, he also speculated.
Many locals said the size of each room -- about nine feet by eight feet -- are so inhumanely small that a person will not even be able to set foot in any of the rooms after placing a small bed there, let alone placing any other furniture.
The size of the kitchen and the toilet are also extremely small for a regular family, they also said.
Bhanu Lal Roy, chairman of Srimangal Union Parishad and a member of the project implementation committee, said the houses are not strong enough to withstand natural forces and its small size will only cause great sufferings to the inhabitants.
No family can live in such condition, especially where the rooms are so small. The size of the units should be extended a little bit so a family of four can live there easily, he added.
Abdul Al Maqsood Sabib, owner of a construction firm named Anjum Construction, said in order to ensure viability as well as proper living conditions for the occupants of a project, local climate or topographical aspects of different parts of the country should be taken into consideration while designing each housing facility.
Contacted, Srimangal Upazila Nirbahi Officer Nazrul Islam, who is also the president of the Project Implementation Committee in the upazila, said although he personally agrees to the idea of designing housing facilities according to local needs, but there has been no scope of deviating from the design that was provided by the higher authorities.