THE indolence of the Dhaka North City Corporation about the vulnerability of at least 12 buildings of seven markets owned by the city authorities is gravely worrying. After the collapse of the Rana Plaza building on April 24, 2013 had left at least 1,136 people dead, mostly female apparel workers, and more than 2000 wounded, the city corporation in question initiated a move for the assessment of the vulnerability of the buildings of 16 markets that the city authorities own. A team of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology that time found the 12 buildings of seven markets in a vulnerable condition and at high risk of disaster of any types. Two of the markets are at Gulshan 2, two at Khilgaon, four at Karwan Bazar, two at Mohammadpur, one at Gabtali and one at the Aminbazar truck terminal. The BUET team in September 2013 said that the buildings should no longer be used to head off any disasters and recommended some safety measures, such as demolition, retrofitting, repairs and load releases, to make the buildings useable. A very large number of people, both sellers and buyers, use the buildings every day. In view of the situation, the indifference of the authorities is deplorable.
The chief executive officer of the city corporation, as New Age reported on Sunday, seeks to say that they could not demolish or repair the market buildings as traders having done their business there for long were unwilling to vacate the markets. The city corporation, as the officer seeks to say, has agreed on certain issues with the traders at a meeting only in the past week and the officer seeks to hope that measures would soon be taken. When both the parties took about six years to agree on certain issues, it is highly unlikely that measures could soon be taken. The authorities should immediately repair and demolish, if required, the vulnerable buildings before any disaster takes place. But the rehabilitation of the traders for the duration needed for the repairs, demolition and rebuilding should also be arranged first. The government has another issues to look into. The relocation of traders of Karwarn Bazar markets to two markets set up at Aminbazar and Mohakhali is reported to have been stalled for 12 years, which shows an apparent unwillingness of the traders to relocate to other places.
Any disasters in the seven markets in question could wreak devastation. The government must, therefore, repair or rebuild the buildings at the earliest. It must also arrange for an alternative place, at least for the duration for the repairs, demolition and rebuilding, for the traders so that they can run their business. A forced relocation without rehabilitation could create another problem. While doing so, the government must look into if there had been any irregularities and corruption in the construction of the buildings, and act accordingly, because the buildings identified vulnerable are 30 to 35 years old while the economic life of a building should be a hundred years.
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