Two residential areas have been developed, slashing down Nagin Hill in Bayazid Bostami area of Chattogram over the last two decades, with the authorities concerned turning a blind eye to this mindless act.
Finally, the Department of Environment has of late come to the hill's rescue, but the damage has already been done – land grabbers cut down two-thirds of the hill, spanning 1.5 lakh square feet, to make room for multistorey buildings.
The department has recently fined 49 homeowners at Green Valley Housing after finding evidence of constructing houses by razing down Nagin hill.
Besides, a case has been filed against 10 people with Bayazid Bostami police station for cutting down about 182,875 cubic feet of the hill.
Locals allege hill cutting is going on unabated in the name of housing as the demand for plots and flats in the hill area is very high.
During a recent visit to Green Valley-1, a residential area developed by cutting down the hill, this correspondent found that another portion of the hill has recently been cut for the construction of a road at the end point of the residential area.
The hill has been cut steeply on one side of that road. On the opposite side of it, seven multi-storey buildings have been built in a row.
In the same way, the soil of the hill has been cut for the construction of almost every house on road numbers 1, 4, 5 and 6 at the housing project.
Schools and madrasas have also been built cutting down the hill. Besides, some families are living in houses built in the foothills.
One Firoz Ahmed's house is located beside Nagin hill. On 26 September, the environment department fined him Tk2 lakh for building the house by cutting down the hill.
Firoz claimed that he bought the flat land 10 years ago, but the environment department accused him of cutting down the hill.
Visiting the house of Md Taiyabur Rahman, owner of a piece of land at Green Valley Housing-2, it was seen that he occupied a portion of the hill adjacent to his house.
Sonia Begum, a neighbour of Firoz, said, "My husband has a plot here. We have not cut any hills. I do not know who is cutting the hill."
This correspondent tried to contact Azim Uddin, president of Green Valley Housing, and even went to his house. But Azim declined to meet.
When contacted, Md Mominur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Chattogram, told The Business Standard, "We have to investigate who were lax in stopping the destruction of hills by encroachers. But now, no one can go unpunished by cutting hills."
The environment department has recently identified at least 50 land grabbers and brought them to justice, he also said, adding, "We are providing all necessary support to the department."
Mia Mahmudul Haque, deputy director of the Chattogram unit of the environment department, told The Business Standard that people are destroying nature. Over the years, about 1.5 lakh square feet of Nagin hill have been cut down and brought to the stage of complete destruction.
"We have learned from locals that there were several more hills around Nagin hill. But land grabbers destroyed those hills. So, we are trying our best to protect the remaining part of the hill."
In 2011, a study titled "Hill Cutting in and Around Chattogram City" was published.
According to the report, most hills are razed down at Pahartali, Khulshi, Bayazid, Lalkhan Bazar, Motijharna, Sholashahar and Foy's Lake areas in the port city.
Mohammad Nurullah Noori, director of the Chattogram Metropolitan Office of the environment department, said, "If the allegations of cutting down the hill are found to be true, there is a provision of fining Tk50 to Tk1,000 for cutting per square foot of the hill. Cases are filed against persons involved in cutting hills."