Two projects, taken by the Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) to prevent soil erosion in the hills of the port city, are in conflict with one another, raising concerns about misuse of funds.
The corporation in 2018 undertook a pilot project of planting Binna grass or Vetiver grass involving Tk25 lakh to prevent soil erosion in the hill, and implemented it on the north end of Batali Hill in the city's Tigerpass area.
A Development Project Proposal (DPP) worth Tk2 crore has been sent to the local government ministry to plant Binna grass in the hills of Chattogram to prevent landslides, said project director and CCC executive engineer Biplob Das.
On the other hand, the CCC engineering department has been constructing a retention wall at a cost of Tk25 lakh since November 2020 by cutting the hill in the name of protecting the hill from erosion.
The unused fund of a Tk760-crore water-logging project is being spent here, violating the DPP of the project.
Binna Grass project officials claimed that their project will not get any result because of the wall. In the last two years, new saplings have been planted on the slopes of the hills.
The construction of the wall will hamper the effectiveness of Binna grass in preventing hill soil erosion, they added.
In the monsoon, the soil of the hills erodes with the rain water.
CCC former chief engineer Lieutenant Colonel Mohiuddin Ahmed, who is doing PhD on Binna grass, said the construction of the wall would have a serious adverse impact.
This wall hampered the work of the Binna grass project, putting obstruction in the way of getting data on the flow of rain water and prevention of erosion of the hill. The work of the whole project will be delayed, he said.
Project director Biplob Das told The Business Standard that soil erosion reduced in the last two years thanks to Binna grass.
However, the engineering department of CCC says that this wall is for the protection of the hill.
Sources said the CCC took a Tk760-crore project in 2017 to construct 36 retention walls as part of the project to build roads, drains and protection walls damaged by floods and water-logging.
Under this project, there was no need to build a new wall on the hill in Lalkhan Bazar as the Chattogram Development Authority had already constructed the wall.
So, the CCC is now constructing this 172-footlong and 2-foot wide retention wall with money from that project, violating rules. The steering committee's approval is required to carry out the work of a project elsewhere instead of the place mentioned in the DPP.
Project Director CCC Superintending Engineer Rafiqul Islam told The Business Standard that the 172-foot wall was scheduled to be constructed at Lalkhan Bazar under the water-logging project.
As there is no need to construct the wall there, it is being done at the place of the Binna grass project, he said.
He said they took permission of the steering committee to do it. He, however, could not show any documents in support of this.
During a spot visit, construction work of the wall was found in its last stage. There are RCC pillars every 3 feet.
The wall is being constructed by cutting the hill in a steep manner. Piling has also been done to construct the 4-feet high wall. About 40 to 45 feet of hill were cut to construct the wall. The hill has become unprotected as soil from the top of the hill is moving down.
The CCC also did not take approval from the Department of Environment (DOE). As per the Bangladesh Environmental Protection Act, 1995, in case of essential national interest, any hill can be cut or redeemed after taking the clearance of the department.
Nurullah Nuri, director of the Chattogram metro unit of the DoE, said, "We don't know about the new hill cutting. The CCC didn't come to us for permission."
''We will inspect the spot soon and take action accordingly,'' he said.