Mega plans underway to tackle landslides

Dhaka,  Sat,  23 September 2017
Published : 17 Jun 2017, 10:03:56
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Bangladesh authorities making ‘mega-plan’ to tackle deadly landslides

The government is making a mega-plan to avert and tackle disasters in hills after deaths of over 150 people in landslides triggered by heavy rains in five southeastern districts.

The disaster management and relief ministry has called a meeting next week and informed other ministries about it on Thursday, Disaster Management and Relief Secretary Md Shah Kamal.

He said a high-level committee of 21 members was formed to assess the damage in the disaster and set the next course of action. The committee has been given 30 days to make a report.

Top officials and experts say possible natural and manmade reasons behind landslides should be identified in the mega-plan.

They say it should also prioritise issues like ensuring protection in hills, removing people from the hillsides, and technological intervention, reports bdnews24.com.

Death toll in the landslides in Rangamati, Chittagong, Bandarban, Cox's Bazar and Khagrhachharhi rose to 156 on Thursday. This is the highest number of deaths in landslides in Bangladesh in a decade.

Landslides in 2007 killed 127 people on Chittagong.

A low over the Bay of Bengal brought the record-breaking heavy rains that caused the landslides.

Meteorologists say such heavy rains triggered by a low took place also in 2004. The low advanced from northwest to southwest at that time.

But the low this time chose the opposite direction and advanced towards northeast. It weakened into rains in Rangamati and the other hill districts.

RAINFALL RECORDS IN RANGAMATI

June 21, 2004    - 304mm

June 26, 1999    - 307mm

July 15, 1998      - 317mm

Aug 4, 1983        - 335mm

July 11, 2004      - 337mm

June 11, 2017     - 365mm

Samarendra Karmakar, a former director at the Meteorology Department, feared that the number of such incidents may rise in the future following effects of climate change.

He recommended measures to stop cutting hills and trees to avert disaster.

"Heavy rains will take place anytime during the rainy season. But we will have to count losses of lives and properties if hills are cut and forests are ravaged," he said.

Karmakar suggested a coordinated work plan to set up shelters in hills, ban risky habitation and arrange rehabilitation by taking opinions of all the stakeholders.

He also said the authorities should have been ready to tackle the disaster after the one in 2007.

Mohan Kumar Das, senior research fellow at BUET's Institute of Water and Flood Management, said environmental changes heightened the possibilities of landslides. "And the unplanned habitation has caused deaths," he added.

The Department of Disaster Management Director General Reaz Ahmed said they had taken measures to tackle landslide disaster as per their capability.

"The process to take a big action plan is under way. We will take opinions from experts and others concerned to ensure a quick execution," he added.

RECOMMENDATIONS BY A 2007 COMMITTEE

A committee formed after the landslides in Chittagong in 2007 had spotted at least two dozen problems that contributed to the hillsides.

Those included the presence of more sand in the soil in the hilly areas, lack of trees, cutting of hills and trees, risky habitation on hillsides, lack of channel for rainwater to drain out, lack of forestation, and removal of sand and soil from hills.

The recommendations by the committee include a ban on residential projects in five kilometres from hills and brick-kiln in a 10-kilometre radius, and forestation on hills on an emergency basis.

It had also recommended setting up guide walls, drains and boundary walls on hills, ban on hill cutting and risky habitation, and stern measures against those cutting hills and building hillside houses. 

 
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