The brick kiln owners have long been eating away at the hills in remote areas of Ruma, even though the local administration has been vigilant about stopping the illegal practice
Owners of illegal brick fields have resorted to a rampant slicing away of hills in different areas of Bandarban district.
The brick kiln owners have long been eating away at the hills in remote areas of Ruma, even though the local administration has been vigilant about stopping the illegal practice.
However, some of these brick kiln owners have become increasingly confident and have now started razing the hillocks in the area.
During a visit to Notun Rumana para in the upazila, Dhaka Tribune found workers cutting three hills in the area. They were led by the locally influential Textile Milon, owner of BMF brick fields.
When contacted, Milon said he had legal documents to run the business.
Abdus Salam, inspector of the Department of Environment, Bandarban, refuted the statement, saying that no one had permission to run any brick kiln business in Ruma.
Although the locals are worried about the threats of hill razing, they have been forced into silence by the brick kiln owners, who are said to have political support behind them, said sources.
UNO Md Yamin Hossain said the authorities had already warned the brick kiln owners against cutting the hills and taking soil from agricultural lands.
Hill cutting is largely considered the reason for landslides in the hill tracts region.
More than 150 people were killed in massive landslides that occurred in the hilly districts -- Rangamati, Chittagong, Bandarban, Khagrachhari and Cox's Bazar -- in 2017.
The Bangladesh Environment Preservation Act 1995, as amended in 2000, prohibits cutting of hills without the approval of the relevant authorities.
The penalty for cutting hills without approval is up to two years’ imprisonment, a fine of Tk 2 lakh or both for a first offence. For a subsequent offence the penalty goes up to ten years’ imprisonment, a fine of Tk 10 lakh or both.
"The criminals have managed to cut hills, destroying the region's biodiversity and increasing the risk of landslides, and are still getting away with it as the local administration, the DoE and law enforcement agencies are not sincere in preventing hill-cutting in the CHT region," said Zumlian Amlai, chairperson of the Bandarban chapter of Pabatya Chattogram Forest and Land Rights Protection, an environmental organization.
Hill cutting is mainly responsible for landslides that claim dozens of lives every year in Bangladesh.