"I am forced to live with the risk of death from a landslide in the foothill. where else a day laborer like me would lie down after work?" said Ariful Islam, a resident of Lighthouse area in Cox's Bazar.

Like Ariful there are at least 12,000 families who are living on the sloping foothills, with an elevated risk of landslide, according to Cox's Bazar Forest and Environment Conservation Council. Given the average family size in Bangladesh, that could mean around 50,000 people at risk.

Cox's Bazar, a highly landslide-prone zone of the country where every year casualties are reported from this disaster during the monsoon season (June-September) triggered by heavy rains.

The biggest tragedy from a said landslide in the district occurred on June 15, 2010, which left 54 people dead including six army members, said Md Junayed, General Secretary of Forest and Environment Conservation Council.

Even last year, landslides from these hills killed 14 people, he said.

"About 7,000 families in Cox's Bazar city and suburbs and another 5,000 families in different hilly areas of the district are living with an imminent risk though the official figure might not address them," said Md Junayed.

Thousands of families are living in a virtual death trap in landslide-prone areas such as Lighthouse, Saikat Para, Mohazer para, South Ghonar Para, Badshah Ghona, Baiddo Ghona, Madhyam Ghonar Para, Pahartali, Kalatali Adarsha Gram, Jharijharikua, and the Link Road area.

The death tolls from landslides however were not daunting enough for people who look for cheaper residences as the population in highly risky areas like PMKhali, Khurushkul, Maheshkhali, Ramu, Teknaf, Ukhia doubled in the last three years.

According to Cox's Bazar South Forest Department, 3,525 families are living in high-risk conditions in the forests under the Southern Forest Division. Besides, according to the North Forest Department of Cox's Bazar, out of about 800 families, there are at least 25 high-risk settlements.

Four years ago, a committee headed by the additional district magistrate, to enlist and remove the dwellers of the risky areas brought some hope.

Several high-risk settlements were then listed, and numerous families were evacuated.

"But since then there has been no activity and the number of risky settlements in the hills has multiplied with time. On the one hand, the landslides casualties increase and on the other hand, the environment is being destroyed by cutting down the hills for establishing settlements".

Md Mamunur Rashid, Deputy Commissioner of Cox's Bazar said, "Of the 12,000 families 5,000 are living in highly risky areas for landslides but we are prepared to evacuate them immediately if heavy rainfall occurs."

Helal Uddin Kabir, Mayor of Cox's Bazar municipality, said that every year from the beginning of the monsoon season, initiatives are taken to evacuate people living in the high-risk zones of hills.

"Similarly, necessary steps have been taken this year also. We have to work together to prevent the illegal occupation at the hills by erecting settlements indiscriminately" he said.

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