A refreshing look awaits occasional visitors to Chittagong these days. The otherwise beautiful metropolis has lately been cleared of its mega billboards and hoardings. Those have long been obstructing the scenic views of the sea-laced city. Green hills and hillocks play a major role in this city's beauty. Thanks to an all-out drive by the city corporation authorities, the people can now have a full view of the city's famous hills.
However, to the disbelief of many, a lot of the hills are now bereft of their earlier charm. Some have been denuded of trees. Others have lost their height due to levelling or cutting. A few have all but disappeared. Literally speaking, it will require great efforts to convince people from other countries that hills are plundered in this country.
Apart from Chittagong and Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), lush green hills once dotted the greater Sylhet region and Comilla. The earlier panoramic view of the country's hills has long slid into oblivion.
In the last three decades, hundreds of hills have been turned into flat lands. The culprits behind this misdeed comprise mainly the syndicates of land grabbers. They are powerful politically or financially.
However, environmental activists are not sitting idle. They keep fighting untiringly to save the rivers, and lately the hills, from grabbers. As seen in the cases of other campaigns, the culprits hardly care a fig about protests. They continue their activities with utter nonchalance.
A number of environment-saving laws and regulations are in force in the country. Most of them are confined to paper only. Few are seen being applied to the areas where violations of environmental laws occur.
Surprisingly, a number of unconscionable acts of law violations appear normal to the general people. One such act is removing top soil from crop fields. Brick kiln owners in the country's northern region are alleged to be forcing the small farmers into selling this soil to them. It's stunning that many farmers are unaware of the fact that a land without top soil turns infertile. It can't grow crops for years. The plundering of top soil by brick kiln owners adds to the brazenness of their flouting of the country's environmental laws.
The few hills still left in the country outside the CHT and in the interior of the Sylhet region's forests are precariously exposed to grabbers' syndicates. That a nation can allow its hills to be disappeared, unless necessitated by state-sponsored construction work, is unthinkable.
In the last thirty years, a sizeable portion of the country's hills have been flattened in Chittagong and Cox's Bazar districts. The three hill-district headquarters are also becoming vulnerable to the grabbers' swoop. Hill levelling eventually leads to disastrous ecological imbalance. The hideous act also plays havoc with the scenic beauty of a place.