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Evacuees returning to risky hills due to low rent, lack of permanent rehab

By bdnews24.com
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People relocated from hills in Chittagong are trickling back to their houses because of a lack of permanent rehabilitation and the lure of low house rents, officials and experts say.
The administration has been demolishing illegally built houses in the hills each year but they are being reconstructed, exposing their inhabitants to high landslide risks during the rains.
A deadly landslip triggered by persistent rain hit two locations below the hills of Chittagong and killed six people including five children early on Sunday.
Administrative officials said they were unable to prevent illegal habitation in the hills, as those evicted had not been properly rehabilitated, hill owners refused to cooperate with the administration, local influential people rebuilt houses, and rent was low.
Environmentalists, however, held the absence of 'exemplary' action against those renting out houses as being mainly responsible for the failure.
Chittagong district administration had identified 666 families living in hazardous zones in 28 hills before the monsoon began and decided to remove them.
It conducted eviction drives in hill areas, including Lalkhan Bazar in Chittagong City, in the second week of June and removed around 200 families.
The local people said several of the families resettled in Lalkhan Bazar with the help of local influential people.
Chittagong district Deputy Commissioner (DC) Md Mesbah Uddin said on Sunday evening: "The people evicted from risky houses will return unless permanent rehabilitation arrangements are made."
 "Low-income people live in these houses despite the risk involved because of their low rent."
 "The district administration evicted and evacuated 200 families at the onset of the rainy season. No other family was evicted during the Ramadan on humanitarian grounds."
He said several families resettled after the eviction drives.
The DC said he had talked with Chittagong City Corporation Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin about proper permanent rehabilitation of the evicted people and that an effort would be made with his cooperation.
He said the house hit by the landslip on Sunday was rented in the beginning of July at Tk 1,000 a month.
Environmentalist Sharif Chouhan demanded a permanent rehabilitation package for the evicted people and 'exemplary' action against politically influential landlords to prevent resettlement.
A total of 127 people living in similar settlements had died during the deadly landslips in the hills of Chittagong in June 2007 after heavy rain.
DC Uddin said, following the Sunday incident, the district administration launched fresh eviction drives, in which at least 100 families were evacuated from Lalkhan Bazar and Bayezid areas.
He said those still living there had been asked to leave but they paid no heed.

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