Government urged to develop master plan to identify landslide risks

Deforestation, construction in vulnerable areas, earthquake or naturally induced cracks in the soil and torrential rains are responsible for the heavy toll taken by landslides in Bangladesh, experts say.

Moinul Hoque Chowdhury Senior
Published : 14 June 2017, 05:17 AM
Updated : 14 June 2017, 05:17 AM

These experts have urged the government to develop a master plan to identify the risks from these natural disasters and minimise their impact.

More than one hundred people have been killed after incessant rain in the hill areas of Chittagong, Rangamati and Bandarban resulted in landslides. The number of casualties has now exceeded the toll from the 2007 landslides.

Landslides and their corresponding casualties have been a common feature of the monsoon season in thee hill areas for the past few years.

In addition to identifying risk zones before the monsoon season, the government should take initiatives to relocate people from the base of hills, create a special force to fill up cracks and construct canals for water removal, experts said.

But first it should prevent deforestation, halt the cutting of hills and train competent rescue teams to deal with such natural disasters, according to one geologist who is an expert in Geological information Systems (GIS).

Dhaka University Geology Department Professor Syed Humayun Akhter told that tremors at various points had led to the development of thin cracks in the Chittagong and Sylhet areas of the country. The possibility of landslides was magnified by these cracks, he said.

“Heavy rainfall puts water pressure on these cracks. The slipperiness and the downward force of gravity leads to these landslides.”

Prof Humayun cited his experience researching ’15-20’ at-risk areas for landslides in Chittagong, Khagrachari, Rangamati, Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar.

“We have identified some areas through remote sensing,” he said. “Some work has been done without the government but the identification of dangerous areas must be done by the government.

“Homes in at-risk areas near the foot of the mountain must be relocated. Lead nets need to be set up in certain areas to protect the road from landslides … we must avoid constructing ill-planned roads in such mountainous areas.”

Prof Humayun also advised filling cracks in the hills with cement in the dry season to strengthen them.

Though the government had announced plans to relocate people from vulnerable areas in 2007, the efforts had been stalled due to people’s unwillingness to move, Disaster Management Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury (Maya) said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“The government must take the initiative,” Prof Humayun said. “It is time to develop a master plan, especially for landslides. In addition to identifying vulnerable  areas, it must also manage relocation and disaster management. Engineering efforts must be undertaken on vulnerable slopes. Canals must be constructed to remove water in case of heavy rains.”

If the government does not permit the habitation of vulnerable areas it is possible to bring casualties down to zero, the Dhaka University professor said.

“Man-made disasters can only be avoided by people making proper plans and implementing them. We must prepare in the same way that we did after the Rana Plaza disaster or for earthquakes so that rescue efforts after such landslides are successful.”