Govt apathy puts public life in jeopardy | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 04, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 04, 2011

Non-compliance of Building Code

Govt apathy puts public life in jeopardy

The ministry of housing and public works has failed to devise a way to ensure compliance with the building code, letting recurrent deaths at construction and demolition sites, caused by lack of safety precautions.
Moreover, the ministry ignored a High Court order passed last October for an enforcement authority for Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC).
In a latest incident, Habibur Rahman Munna, a college student, died on the spot as a brick fell on his head from an under-construction high-rise in the city's Panthapath on July 16. Four workers died just five days later as a carrier lift collapsed at an under-construction building in Kakrail.
Safety and Rights Society, a rights organisation, said 97 people died at construction sites during January-June this year.
Non-compliance with the building code is the prime cause for deaths at construction sites, said Mubasshar Hussain, president of Institute of Architects Bangladesh and a member of the government's Nagar Unnyan Committee.
"We raised the issue of enforcing building code many times at the committee meeting, but to no avail", said Hussein. "It would have been enforced, had the public works ministry intended".
The committee, headed by the public works secretary, is the highest advisory body including professional experts to deal with building constructions.
It was a responsibility of the government to institute a system to enforce the code, said Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, a leading civil engineer of the country.
The building code became legally binding five years back, but compliance with its safety provisions has ever been ignored in want of a designated authority and adequate number of building officials.
No progress has yet been made to put enforcement mechanism in place, said ASM Ismail, chief architect of the government's Department of Architecture.
The tragedy in Rangs Bhaban demolition in November 2007 that claimed at least 15 lives of workers was mainly due to non-compliance with the building codes, said experts.
The High Court last October asked the government to set up an enforcement authority in accordance with the code, as a group of rights bodies filed a writ petition following Rangs Bhaban tragedy.
Selim Hossain, a 20-year-old undergraduate student, died in Gopibagh in September 2007, as bricks of a raw wall fell on him from the fourth floor of an under-construction six-storey building. Ashraf Ali, a pedestrian, died in a similar accident two days later in Lalbagh.
On November 23 the same year died a construction worker, Taslim, falling off an under-construction building on RK Mission Road.
The building code requires a proposed building owner or a commercial builder must properly install protective canopy and net, undertake pedestrians' protection, and enclose the construction site with fencing.
The owner must ensure that the workers put on helmets, hand gloves, safety goggles, safety belt, and equipment and display warning signs at the site.
The amended building construction law stipulates a punishment of seven years' imprisonment or monetary penalty or both for violation of the code and building rules.
Architect ASM Ismail said the four development authorities (Unnyan Kartripakhya) in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, and Rajshahi are supposed to ensure compliance with BNBC under building construction law, under which they approve building design.
Md Nurul Huda, chairman of Rajdhani Unnyan Kartripakhya (Rajuk), however, said his organisation is not bound to enforce the code, as the ministry neither did designate Rajuk for the job by any office order nor appointed required building officials.
Huda also attributed Rajuk's inability to lack of manpower. Presently there are only 800 employees in Rajuk including officers and staff against 1087 posts, he said.
Rajuk has only five authorised officers to approve building designs and rectify deviations in the 1528 square-kilometre area. Rajuk approved around 27,000 building designs till this June from the beginning of 2007.
Rajuk authorities have proposed a revised organogram with 2369 posts including 24 authorised officers and are awaiting its final approval.
Abdul Mannan Khan, state minister for housing and public works, could not be contacted for his version despite several attempts. A text message was sent to his mobile phone in this regard.
Dr Khondker Shawkat Hossain, the secretary, was on a tour in London while Shirin Akhtar, the joint secretary (development), declined to talk.

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