Better known for its natural disasters globally, Bangladesh still stands fifth among the top disaster risk countries in the world, according to ActionAid Bangladesh.
The South-Africa based NGO said the risk potentials were discussed at both academic and public domain, but pragmatic steps have yet to be taken from policy level to minimise the risks and reduce post-disaster casualties.
“We don’t want to see tangible initiatives after disasters and losing hundreds of lives,” country director of ActionAid Bangladesh Farah Kabir said at a seminar on “Quake Preparedness and Response: Lickings and Reality” held at BRAC Centre.
Her colleague, Nasir Uddin, added that the risks of disaster casualties in Bangladesh has been growing due to massive urbanisation and growing population. The rural-urban population, he said, would be fifty-fifty by next 15 years and a massive earthquake would cost thousands of lives in cities.
Professor Mehedi Ahmed Ansari of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) said the disaster risks could be minimised by 90 per cent in urban areas provided the ‘building code’ was strictly implemented. The risk assessment for existing buildings is also essential, he added.
Chairman of Dhaka University Disaster Management department professor Maksud Kamal said earthquake was a reality for Bangladesh but there was no national consensus on it. The technical experts suggest for immediate steps, while decision makers remained indifferent.
Director general of Fire Services brigadier general Ali Ahmed Khan said he himself had warned Gulshan DCC Market owners about a potential disaster but they did not pay heed to it. In most cases, he said, nobody wants to listen to expert opinions. Coordination among the inter-agencies is also poor, he added.