A two-storey building, which has been abandoned but used for living and as a warehouse, in Old Town of Dhaka on Wednesday, leaving two dead. While the death from the incident is shocking, the inaction and indifference of the authorities concerned, especially the town planning authority Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, are to blame for this. The building was abandoned and the authorities should not have allowed people to use it for living and storing. The accident at hand involved just one building, but there are many other buildings, not just in the capital city but also across the country that are in a dilapidated state and could cause disaster anytime. There is still time for the authorities to wake up to the reality. Rajuk in its latest list of ‘risky’ buildings in the city, made public in 2017, has only 35 structures while it listed 321 buildings as risky in 2010. Private estimates, however, come up with a much higher figure. In connection with 2010 list, the disaster management ministry asked Rajuk on April 27, 2016 to pull down the 321 buildings identified as vulnerable and risky.
The extended deadline for the demolition expired on December 31, 2016. But no demolition took place. In July 2016, the housing and public works ministry set up an 11-member committee to submit a report on the latest status of the 321 buildings by August 19, 2016. The list of the 35 highly risky buildings also came up in this context. The authenticity of the list has been questioned as allegations are there that Rajuk officials, especially the authorised officers who play a key role not only in Rajuk’s approval for the construction of any structure but also in ensuring that the construction is done in compliance with Rajuk guidelines, are negligent in performing their stipulated duties. Allegations are also rife that corruption and irregularities have for long been rampant in Rajuk.
Rajuk must realise that people’s lives are at stake and it must accomplish its task of properly identifying the risky buildings. Additionally, Dhaka has already been identified by more than one studies as one of the cities vulnerable to earthquakes of high magnitude. In addition, after identifying the risky structures, the government should take steps to either demolish or retrofit the structures in compliance with expert suggestions as soon as possible. All the authorities concerned must realise that this tendency of foot-dragging in implementing such decisions could turn out to be tragically fatal.
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