Speakers at a roundtable yesterday urged the government to reform Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) in order to reduce frequent fire incidents and their devastating aftermath caused by unplanned development in Dhaka.
Rajuk is failing to monitor the issue sufficiently and that is the reason why most buildings have been built flouting approved designs, while some have no approval at all, they said.
A group of urban planners, architects and engineers came up with this observation at a roundtable on “Ways to prevent fire incidents” at CA Bhaban in the capital. Prothom Alo in association with Sheltech organised it.
Presenting a keynote paper, Dr Toufiq M Seraj, founder managing director of Sheltech, said there are inconsistencies over the definition of high-rise building in the different codes -- Dhaka Building Construction Rules-2008 (above 10-storey), Fire Prevention and Protection Act-2003 (7-storey), and BNBC-2006 (above 6-storey).
He said the government should take the initiative to create a one-window service for building plan approvals after eliminating these inconsistencies.
“After the Rana Plaza tragedy, joint initiatives of planners and architects helped make the garment industry fully code-compliant, so a third party building compliance monitoring can also be set up in this regard,” he said.
Seraj, also an architect, said Rajuk has the responsibility to monitor evacuation plan, location and size of staircase, emergency exits, enough space between buildings and stopping construction of illegal additional floors.
In his speech, prominent urban planner Nazrul Islam said the government should investigate the corruption in Rajuk and reform the body. “Otherwise, no plan can be executed properly,” he added.
He said there is a lack of coordination among the two mayors of Dhaka city corporations and Rajuk.
Maksud Helali, a professor at Mechanical Engineering department of Buet, said the losses during the fire at FR Tower were the result of violating building code under Rajuk's watch.
He urged owners of buildings to maintain building codes and to form an initial fire fighting team.
M Shahidul Ameen, professor of architecture at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said a research on building planning was published by Buet experts in 2000 but neither the government nor private developers follow recommendations from that.
Adil Mohammed Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP), alleged that many high-rises have been approved indiscriminately to serve personal interests only.
Mobassher Hossain, former president of Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh, urged the government to enhance the power of city mayors so that they can form a strong coordination among Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), other stakeholders and parliament members from Dhaka.
Rayhanul Ferdous, chief engineer of Rajuk, said, “We acknowledge our limitations in monitoring but we have already taken numerous plans in this regard.”
Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam said a list of buildings that violated codes will be made as early as possible and owners will be given an ultimatum for reconstruction.
“Otherwise, they have to face stern action,” he added.
Among others, former director general of Fire Service and Civil Defense Ali Ahmed Khan, former REHAB president Tanvirul Haque Probal and Prothom Alo's assistant editor Anisul Hoque also spoke at the event.