THE government yet again extended the deadline for demolishing risky buildings. The disaster management and relief secretary announced, as New Age reported on Friday, the new deadline on Thursday and the housing and public works ministry has already been requested to pull down all identified unsafe buildings by the extended deadline of December. The government has extended the deadline as the earlier one expired on May 27 without much being done. The disaster management ministry identified, in a two-year aerial survey beginning in 2008, some 72,000 buildings in the capital as unable to withstand earthquake. During the period, inspectors and authorised officers of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha identified 321 buildings in the city as highly risky. Moreover, relevant government agencies identified 40 such buildings in Khulna, 31 in Sylhet and 24 in Chittagong. Necessarily, the disaster management ministry requested the public works ministry to pull down the buildings as early as possible while it requested public utility agencies to discontinue their services for these buildings. Neither of the requests has, however, yet been complied.
Besides, when it came to risky buildings in the capital, while Rajuk passed the responsibility of pulling down the risky buildings onto the city corporations, the city corporations held Rajuk responsible for the task. Against the backdrop, at a meeting of the national earthquake preparedness and awareness raising committee on April 27, the May 27 deadline was set for pulling down all the 321 risky buildings in the capital through a coordinated initiative between Rajuk and the city corporations. The lack of coordination between Rajuk and the two city corporations has reached such a pass that they are yet to demolish even the 50-odd buildings of the city that tilted in the past five years. Regardless of how serious the disaster management’s initiative to rid the city, said to be vulnerable to severe earthquake, is, it is not clear if the lack of coordination between relevant agencies has been resolved. Hence, there are reasons to believe that the demolition task at least in Dhaka may not be completed by the fresh deadline. It is also important to note that the existing law that governs city corporations asks the local government institutions only to notify the owners if any building is found risky while other laws fail to clearly assign their demolition to any specific agency.
Overall, the government should immediately plug the legal loopholes so that the assigned agency cannot show them as a pretext for noncompliance with the fresh deadline for the demolition of risky buildings. There should also be adequate compensation package for the owners of risky buildings to encourage them to cooperate in the demolition process.
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