Nine out of 10 buildings in key areas of Dhaka city have been constructed flouting their approved designs, according to the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk).
A Rajuk survey conducted between January and August last year found that less than one out of 10 buildings in Rampura, Motijheel, Khilgaon, Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Pallabi and Dhanmondi is built as per the specification of their designs approved by the city development authority.
Rajuk surveyed at least 2.04 lakh buildings, which are three-storey or more, on its 1,528 sqkm area jurisdiction.
The survey, the first of its kind since Rajuk's inception in 1987, also found that over eight out of 10 buildings in Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Niketan, Tejgaon, Lalbagh, Sutrapur, and Keraniganj were built in deviation from their approved designs.
The designs are often flouted at the cost of safety.
The FR Tower, where at least 26 people were killed in a fire on Thursday, was one of those buildings. Its emergency staircase was narrower than what was required and floors from 19th to 22nd were built without Rajuk permission, said officials from city development authority and fire service.
Experts said Rajuk is to blame for the appalling situation.
They said Rajuk focused more on business, including land development, selling flats, plots, and even on constructing flyovers, rather than on monitoring.
Rajuk should take up a massive plan to rebuild Dhaka ensuring fire safety in each building, widening city streets, creating volunteer force for disaster management and installing hydrants at various points, they said.
Rajuk Chairman Abdur Rahman told The Daily Star that they have now identified the buildings that have deviated from their designs.
“We will issue letters to the owners for taking measures to correct the deviations. We will monitor it regularly and if we find that they have not taken any measure, we will take legal steps,” said Abdur Rahman.
However, Housing and Public Works Minister SM Rejaul Karim told The Daily Star, “Most of the buildings made minor deviations from its designs.”
“For example,” he explained, “some houses did not have garage space and some built two rooms on the roof without permission. It is our expectation that the owners will correct those deviations on their own. Our drive is going on and it will continue.”
About the under-construction buildings, the Rajuk chairman said they were seeking support from government agencies in this regard.
“Yes, some new buildings were built violating the designs. People's awareness is crucial because it is not possible to monitor everything all the time. But now we have requested other service providers, including electricity, gas and water authorities, not to provide connections if they find design violations.”
Regarding allegations that Rajuk is ignoring its regulatory role and is more focused on development work, the chairman said, “It is not true; the development wing and the regulation unit are separate. Everyone has their own responsibilities.”
'RAJUK IN DEEP SLEEP'
Iqbal Habib, urban planning expert and an architect, said, “This survey report proves that Rajuk was in deep sleep. A building was not constructed in one day. These irregularities happened in front of our eyes. When the city is already on the verge of destruction, Rajuk woke up. Rajuk should be ashamed.”
Rajuk is more occupied with the business side, including land development and sale of flats and plots that benefit a section of people, he added.
“This has made the mega city vulnerable. Liveability is at stake. In such a situation, there is no alternative to reorganising the city. Rajuk should take up a massive plan,” said Habib, adding that the government could learn from how discipline was brought to the RMG sector.
Reputed urban planner Nazrul Islam said, “This report proves that Rajuk failed to carry out its regulatory job. The organisation engaged in development work more.”
He suggested that Rajuk be refrained from development activities and focus more on its regulatory job.