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6 killed in landside Eviction fails to deter settlers from hills

By bdnews24.com
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Living in a shanty on or below the hills of Chittagong is like 'playing chess with death'. Incessant rains often triggers off deadly landslips there-like the one last Sunday that killed five children and one woman.The government is trying to evict these illegal settlers ever since 127 people died in a series of landslips in June 2007.But the eviction drives have not yielded the desired result. District administration officials claim that local influentials were constructing these shanties and renting them out on low rent, disregarding a government ban.Even this year, the administration identified 'risky' construction in the 28 hills and said 666 families would be evicted. Two hundred families were moved out ahead of monsoon, but the rest are staying put. Some of those evicted returned and constructed the shanties again with backing of the influentials.In the wee hours on Sunday, five children and a woman were killed in two separate landslips. Bibi Mariam, 18 months, 'Salma', 5, and Arafat Hossain Farid, 12, all children of mechanic Mohammed Shahjahan, were buried alive in the landslide on the shanties called Amin Colony in the foothills at Bayezid Tank around 2am. On that very night, Mariam Begum, 29, her daughter Suraiya Akhter, 2 and another girl Anthi Nur, 5, were buried alive at Pora Colony in Lalkhan Bazar's Motijhorna area.Chittagong Deputy Commissioner Md Mezbah Uddin told bdnews24.com that the eviction drives that started before the monsoon stopped during the Ramadan."Dwellers disregard obvious risk and will keep coming back unless permanent rehabilitation is done. Due to the low rent, the poor risk their lives and live in these shanties."The district administration chief said he has already discussed with Chittagong Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin on how to address the issue. "We will undertake adequate rehabilitation measures with the Mayor's help."Sharif Chouhan, chairman of People's Voice, an environment activists platform, told bdnews24.com: "You will not be able to stop the landslip deaths by only evicting dwellers. You need to take exemplary action against the influentials who are renting out these shanties."The DC continued they have evicted at least 100 families from Lalkhan Bazar and Bayezid areas since the deaths. Those at risk in other areas have been told to move away. He added they would resume the eviction drive from Monday to move away those who stayed back.

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