BREACHES in the National Building Code and the Bangladesh Fire Fighting and Prevention Act are common and such issues come to the fore, in most cases, whenever an accident happens because of such violation. The government and its agencies appear to be alert when such accidents happen and then they largely neglect the issues. What is worrying is that many government buildings are also reported to have been built in violation of the code, giving little attention to safety issues. It is also common that buildings built following the codes are often reconstructed later, disregarding the code and safety issues. This is what seems to have happened with a number of new installations and structures that some ministries are reported to have built inside the secretariat premises. A number of ministries and departments have, as New Age reported on Thursday, installed structures, occupying open spaces originally kept for emergency exit at a building and an adjacent transport pool at the secretariat to accommodate workstations, breastfeeding corner, prayer room and dispatch and information desks. Such structures are reported to have choked the open spaces and are likely to hamper emergency exit in cases of accidents.
The Internal Resource Division of the finance ministry, the shipping ministry, the textile ministry, the women and children affairs ministry, the primary and mass education ministry, the cultural affairs ministry and the education ministry are reported to have developed makeshift structures on different floors of the 20-storey Building No 6 at the secretariat while the Press Information Department is reported to have developed structures on the third and fourth floors of Clinic Bhaban; the liberation war affairs ministry is reported to have developed structures at the transport pool opposite the secretariat. All such structures have been built on open spaces without the permission of the Public Works Department, an agency responsible for the construction of buildings and structures of public organisations and agencies. The secretariat is already enlisted among risky structures by the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence for its poor design, an inadequate number of emergency exits and narrow staircases. The unauthorised structures have only added to the vulnerability of the secretariat. The Public Works Department seeking to say that the ministries have developed the structures on their own initiatives and the ministries seeking to explain the installation of the unauthorised structures on grounds of space constraint only point to a worrying disregard for rules by people responsible for implementing them.
The Public Works Department must, therefore, take the issue seriously and take necessary action to ensure building codes adherence at the secretariat for safety reasons. The violation of the law by government agencies also sets a bad precedent. The government must discipline its aberrant agencies and ensure that the building safety codes are maintained by all.
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