Fearing landslides prompted by rains, the Chattogram Development Authority (CDA) suspended traffic on Bayezid-Faujdarhat road that was built with razing hills — completely defying the environmental law.
The CDA, implementing agency of the road project, said the route will be offline for the next three months. The decision came followed by landslides at several points of the road on 6 June.
The six-kilometre road from the Dhaka-Chattogram highway's Faujdarhat point to the port city's Bayezid was built by sharply cutting 18 hills.
The Chattogram Department of Environment (DoE) says since the project did not heed to their repeated "stop-orders", monsoon now exposes the route to a massive disaster.
The port city civil society has also raised questions about the project implantation defying the DoE orders.
Kazi Hasan Bin Shams, chief engineer at the CDA, said, "Vehicles started plying on the road since September last year though it has not been inaugurated yet. Of the 18 roadside hills, we have identified some points as risky."
"The risky points of the hills are not strong enough to stand tall in a heavy downpour. So we suspended the traffic," he added.
The risk was already there
The CDA started the construction without any clearance from the DoE. On top of this, the development authority did not run any environmental assessment of the hill cutting.
Subsequently, the implementing agency was fined more than Tk10 crore by the DoE.
Rafique Ahmed, director general of the DoE, visited the project site last year and warned there was a substantial risk of landslides as the CDA had razed the hills at a 90 degree angle.
The CDA chief engineer now says they will raze the roadside hills further "to minimize the risk".
Mia Mahmudul Haque, deputy director of Chattogram DoE, said the CDA has applied with them for further hill cutting. "They have formed an expert panel, but the committee is yet to come up with a report," he added.
Engineer Subhash Barua, vice-president of Parikolpito Chattogram Forum, said, "The CDA for the project did not heed to the experts, environmentalists or even the locals. They razed the hills as they wished, and now label the road risky."
"I think it is all about getting more allocations in the old project. The current CDA panel is completely unable to make Chattogram a planned liveable city," he commented.