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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Repair of roads to Rangamati would take weeks

Candle light vigil for those dead in massive landslides - Photo: Facebook

Rangamati is cut off from rest of the Bangladesh. The unprecedented landslides in Rangamati which damaged the vital road infrastructures to and from the picturesque hill town.

Two roads which connect Rangamati have been devoured in the landslides during torrential rains in advent of monsoon.

Already, Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, Minister, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs (MoCHTA) Bir Bahadhur, State Minister, Secretary of MoCHTA, Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura, Additional Secretary Kamal Talukder, Joint Secretary, MoCHTA, Sudatta Chakma, are in Rangamati to assess the situation.

The Ministers and senior officials in Rangamati held coordination meetings with officials of the district administration officials and Bangladesh Army and that the crucial road communication “will take a long time to repair”, wrote Bikram Kishore Tripura in Facebook on Saturday.

A crucial meeting of Relief and Rehabilitation Coordination was held on Friday at Deputy Commissioner, Rangamati's Conference Room. The meeting was attended by Tarun Ghosh, Vice Chairman, Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB), Brig Gen Faruk, Region Commander, Rangamati, Ushaton Talukdar MP, Chakma Circle Chief Barrister Debashish Roy, Riaz Ahmad, Director General, Disaster Management, Rangamati Police Chief Syed Tariqul.

The Secretary also wrote that at “the moment Rangamati is [only] accessible through waterways from Kaptai.”

The death tolls of the massive landslides have killed more than 100 people and nearly 40 are still missing. Rescue operation is going round the clock to find any survivors.

Meanwhile, Rangamati District Administration has banned procession and rallies in the Hill district for a month.

Some has also posted in Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura’s Facebook that the nature has taken its revenge for man-made deforestation, hill-cutting to build houses and agriculture farms.

Former Conservator of Forest, Mihir Kiran, writes: “Very sad and heart breaking. Demographic balance is must for the soil condition of the region. Otherwise we have to face the same unbearable fate every year.”

Tripura in a response said: Ideal but difficult to implement. You (Mihir Kiran) were one of the longest serving CCF of FD. You had the experience of failure in plantation in CHT, of course it was our collective failure, not at all personal. Nature has given us a grim signal. We must act without further delay. Time is running out fast.

However, Kirti Nishan Chakma writes in Facebook that “We can and must dissect the causes that has led to this tragedy. But this can wait a little later.”

“Urgent help is needed at the moment. There is a real risk of crisis of the essentials (rice, dal, salt, medicines, etc.) as that the two roads that connects Rangamati to the rest of the country are now completely cut off and repairing them is likely to take a long time given the hilly terrain,” opines writes Kirti Nishan Chakma, General Secretary at Moanoghar a home for distressed children in the Hills.

“A real scarcity of the essentials, maybe it is panic buying or hoarding by the people that is exhausting the available stocks, maybe it the typical dishonest traders who are trying to make quick bucks on the back of this catastrophe. Whatever are reasons, immediate interventions by the government is needed,” writes General Secretary at Moanoghar.

Already the price of the essentials is rising. It is not only Rangamati town, the entire or most of the Rangamati district could be affected.

However, the MoCHTA Secretary affirms that the government will do the needful for the relief, rehabilitation of the distressed people and repairs and reconstruction of the infrastructures. We have to have some patience.

First published in The Asian Age, July 19, 2017

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow (USA), is an award winning investigating journalist and is Special Correspondent, The Asian Age, Dhaka, Bangladesh