Living with life risk
Golam Mostafa Jibon: The number of vulnerable buildings is increasing in the capital putting thousands of peoples’ live at risk.Although, the matter is known to all, no necessary measure is taken in this regard due to unknown reasons. Even, there is no specific list of risky buildings in the hands of the authorities concerned. As a result, many important institutions like the top-levelschools-colleges, hospitals-clinics, shopping malls, banks, residential hotels and media centers of the capital are running with fire and earthquake risk year after year.
Although, there is possibility of fire accident at any time, these institutions do not have minimum headache. Despite repeated letters and notices from the fire service to strengthen the fire-fighting system, no one is listening. These buildings seem to have become a death trap due to the unawareness of the owners, complaint raises.
It is known that 80 percent of the fire incidents in the capital are happening from these fire-fighting-unmanaged buildings.
The fire situation in these organizations is so deplorable that a terrible fire can happen at any time.
Experts said that, in addition to increasing the capacity of the fire service to prevent fires, there is a need to increase civic awareness. At the same time, coordination of Fire Service, City Corporation, Capital Development Authority (RAJUK) and Power Department is required. If these four departments work together, the incidence of fires will be reduced.
Seeking anonymity, a senior officer of the Fire Service and Civil Defense Department said, “High-risk prone organizations were repeatedly asked to strengthen the fire-fighting system by letter, but most of the organizations did not pay heeds in this regard.”
“So far they have been warned several times with notices and reminders. But they have not made any progress in this regard,” he said.
Relevant sources said that, no specific list of risky buildings has been made by the authorities concerned so far. There is a huge discrepancy between the data of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Public Works, Capital Development Authority (RAJUK) and the City Corporation. That’s what, urban planners think,”These government agencies are disseminatingdiscrepant figures of the risky buildings, which raising question. It is learned that, the Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief said, over80,000 buildings in Dhaka have been identified as risky.
Sirajul Islam, chief urban planner said, a survey conducted by Undivided City Corporation in 2004 after a building collapse in Old Dhaka leaving 17 people dead. At that time, about 500 buildings were detected as risky.
According to RAJUK sources, the first list of risky buildings was compiled in 2010. The list was later updated in 2016.
Later, RAJUK, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Fire Service start the work of compiling a list of risky buildings by surveying about 4 lakh buildings in the capital.
Iqbal Habib, a city planner and architect, said, “The manner in which RAJUK, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, the Public Works and the Fire Service and the City Corporation have identified as risky buildings throughout Dhaka does not seem to be working.” It will take years. The work needs to be done on a priority basis. For example, buildings like markets, shopping complexes, offices, commercial centers, where people gather more, need to be worked on first. They should think first about fire safety and security. First of all, it is necessary to take initiative to save lives on an emergency basis.”
The way RAJUK has started, I think they want to take the matter the other way. In this case, the Ministry of Disaster Management and the City Corporation may take effective action against the risky buildings and institutions. If necessary, gas, water and electricity connections should be disconnected in the buildings of risky organizations. Failure to do so could lead to major accidents, including fires, at any time.
According to the fire service, the list includes 295 educational institutions, including Dhaka University, Government Shahid Suhrawardy College, Kabi Nazrul Government College, Bangla College, Habibullah Bahar University College, BRAC University and Daffodil International University. Hospitals include Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Mitford Hospital, National Chest Disease Hospital, National Cancer Institute, Kurmitola General Hospital, United Hospital, LabAid and Ibn Sina. Among the riskiest shopping malls are: Bashundhara Shopping Mall, Jamuna Future Park, Gulshan Tower, Bangabazar Complex, Polwell Super Market, Mirpur Shopping Complex, Shyamoli Garden and Lalmatia Arang Market. The 5-star residential hotels included Radisson Blu, Le Meridien, Dhaka Regency Hotel and Resort, Tea Tree Hotel and Resort, La Vinci Hotel and Royal Grand Hotel. Among the banks, Sonali Bank head office, NCC Bank head office and Bangladesh Krishi Bank head office are some of them.
Director General of Fire Service and Civil Defense Brigadier General Sajjad Hossain said that, “Most of the establishments do not have fire-fighting system. After the inspection, even if they send a letter to those organizations as risky, they do not want to listen. In this case, we can not close those institutions immediately. The main reason for this is the impact on employment. We are working in coordination with City Corporation and RAJUK to solve this problem.”
In response to a question, Sajjad Hossain said that in order to enforce the existing law, the fire service has to take the help of any other organization. Occasionally, the fire service plans to launch a mobile court against violators of the law, but the plan is scrapped after a High Court ban. It is important to empower the fire service in this regard. According to a study by the Housing and Building Research Institute, 81 percent of high-rise buildings in the capital have extinguishers, smoke detectors at 17.14 percent, heat detectors at 8.57 percent and radiation detectors at 0.95 percent.
It is to be mentioned that, at least 78 people including women and children died and over 100 were injured in a devastating fire that broke out at a chemical warehouse in Hazi Wahed Mansion of Chawkbazar’s Churihatta in Old Dhaka in 2019.Another fire that broke out in the same year at FR Tower in Banani of the capital claimed the lives of at least 19 people, including a Sri Lankan citizen. About 70 people sustained burn injuries in the fire. Such incidents have now become regular phenomenon in the city.
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