ACC’s decision however costly is commendable

Published at 12:00am on April 11, 2019

RAPID urbanisation takes place in an unplanned way. Canals and water bodies filled to build high rises. High rises are erected in breach of the building code and other laws and regulations and without environmental clearance while citizens keep paying for such gross violations. The FR Tower had no permission for its several upper floors and there was no fire exit in the 24-storey building that housed dozens of offices. Immediately after the fire, the public works minister said that the building in question was constructed in deviation from the approved plan, but Rajuk turned a blind eye to the matter. But Rajuk’s horizon of inaction and indifference appears to be much larger. The 6,204 buildings constructed deviating from the approved designs in 1997–2013 faced no action from Rajuk. In this regard, the Anti-Corruption Commission’s move to hold Rajuk to account is welcome. The commission has asked Rajuk to submit a report on its action in cases of such buildings.
In 2013, the commission and Rajuk conducted a survey on a High Court order which found that more than 90 per cent of high rises in the capital city and in adjoining areas were erected without mandatory clearance from the environment department while 94 per cent buildings were built without fire safety certificate in 1997–2013. Another survey that Rajuk conducted in the first half of 2018 identified 1,95,376 buildings to have been constructed in violation of the approved design. Rajuk officials, who fully know of the problem and the risk thereof, chose not to intervene. No significant action has been taken against Rajuk officials for their corruption in issuing occupancy certificate for illegal buildings. Therefore, the allegation that Rajuk kept silent and allowed gross violations of the building code in exchange for individual gratification is not unfounded. Experts have further alleged that vested interests involving real estate developers and Rajuk officials are responsible for this situation. In 2010, a High Court order directed the government to form a national building code enforcement agency, but the agency has never been set up. It is, therefore, understandable that people are not assured and urban planners are still unconvinced as the commission’s effort to hold Rajuk to account came much too late. The authorities have taken five years since 6,204 buildings were identified illegal and 27 lives, in the FR Tower fire, to even acknowledge the negligence in building code enforcement.
The commission, under the circumstances, must ensure that Rajuk submits its report of its inaction in time and must bring to justices the officials who approved designs in violation of the rules or tolerated the violation by issuing occupancy certificates. The government must ensure that Rajuk corruption allegations are dealt with immediately.