Today marks the second anniversary of 120 lives perished in landslides across Rangamati in 2017.
Since then, despite various awareness campaigns and evacuation drives by the district administration, at least 10,000 people are still living on 50 gorges and slopes of hills prone to further landslides, according to Rangamati district administration.
During the landslides on June 13 of 2017, as many as 1,200 houses were completely destroyed and 9,500 houses damaged partially, affecting around 18,000 families in Rangamati.
Road communications between Rangamati and other districts remained collapsed for nearly 10 days, resulting in food and fuel shortage in a vast area of the district. The landslides also caused power outage for two days in the area.
Officials at Rangamati district administration said people are still not aware of the risks and many, including the ones affected by the previous landslides, are still living alongside the 50 hilly areas that the administration has marked as risky this year.
Monsoon downpour is yet to hit the hills of Rangamati and when the rains start to pour, it might turn fatal for the thousands who are reluctant to move elsewhere, they feared.
Mahammad Abdul Majid’s dwelling was affected in a landslide last year in Shimultoli area of Rangamati municipality.
When asked why he still lives in the same place, he said no one wants to take the risk of dying in landslides after witnessing the deaths in the last couple of years. “The administration demolishes the houses built here, but where will go?”
In Rangamati municipality area alone, most of approximately 18,000 families live in areas susceptible to landslides, said sources.
During a visit to the town’s Notun Para, Shimultoli, Pashchim Muslim Para and Rupnagar areas, where devastation was severe with many died during the landslides of June 13 in 2017, this correspondent came across several signs that the Rangamati district administration posted on top or on the edge of a number of hills. The signs read: “Beware of hill collapse and natural calamities - Risky area - Living and construction of structures prohibited.”
However, no one apparently paid any heed to the cautionary signs as countless houses were seen on the gorges and the hillsides.
While speaking with this correspondent, SM Shafi Kamal, additional deputy commissioner (general) of Rangamati, said they believed that there will not be any deaths due to landslides in Rangamati this year because they recently conducted drives to dismantle houses built in risky areas.
Moreover, they were creating awareness among locals by putting up caution signs in 50 areas that they marked as risky.
“There’s no scope of reconstruction of houses [after dismantling] in those hills. The district administration is in a tough stance against new houses in the risky areas,” he said.
“At least 10 illegal houses were demolished by mobile courts in the last few months,” he said, adding that they have taken elaborate preparations ahead of the upcoming rainy season.
As part of the preparations, they already distributed 30,000 brochures to people living in landslide-prone areas and teams of local volunteers, scouts, fire service, Border Guard Bangladesh and defence forces have been organised.