Rajuk role in question
Noted architects and civil engineers blame catastrophic building disasters like Rana Plaza collapse on lack of effective control of Rajuk over building construction and government's foot-dragging over approving required manpower.
Since 2007, the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) has had five designated officials in a committee responsible for approving building construction in Savar.
The committee, comprised of a board member, an assistant director and an executive engineer of Rajuk, assistant chief architect of department of architecture and a government-appointed authorised officer, has a revised jurisdiction over Turag, part of Ashulia and Tongi and Gazipur Sadar in April this year.
But they never appeared to enforce building law there, said Mubasshar Hussein, president of Institute of Architects Bangladesh.
It is apprehended that the building law, safety precautions and mandatory Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) have not been followed in constructing thousands of buildings in Savar and other fringe areas of the capital, he said.
Authorised Officer Md Helal Ahmed said they inspected approval of only around 50 buildings in Savar over the past several months and could not check all the buildings due to lack of adequate number of inspectors. He said it was not possible to ascertain the number of illegal buildings in Savar without a survey.
Rajuk chairman Md Nurul Huda said they could not control construction of buildings beyond the city's core area due to lack of manpower. They also could not go for enforcing building law in areas like Savar because of “vehement opposition” by local municipal authorities.
But Mubasshar said Rajuk did lodge a case against Rana Plaza owner for the collapse, which claimed more than 1,100 lives, for violating Building Construction Act and the BNBC. It proves Rajuk is the authority responsible for enforcing laws there.
He rejected the Rajuk chairman's excuse, saying there are scores of example of illegal high-rise buildings even in the capital's core area, where Rajuk has remained mysteriously silent. “So, the excuse is unacceptable.”
Rajuk chairman said they placed a revised organogram to the government seeking increase in manpower from 1,087 to 1,980 but it took two and half years to get approval from housing and public works ministry, finance ministry and the cabinet.
Then it took six months for public administration ministry to approve the recruitment rules and they have to further wait for law ministry's vetting, he said, the new organogram will add 200 inspectors to existing 40, 20 authorised officers to 4, and 7 executive magistrates to one.
As to long delay in endorsing required manpower, Abdul Mannan Khan, state minister for housing and public works, said it was due to financial constraints and long bureaucratic process involving finance, planning and public administration ministries.
Rajuk is legally responsible to control development within its 1,528-square kilometres area of Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan (master plan) as per Town Improvement Act.
“Rajuk has taken upon itself too heavy a load,” said noted civil engineer Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, “It should disaggregate responsibility.”
Evasive role of Rajuk and defiant role of local government bodies have paved the way for an unspecified number of illegal buildings creeping up in Savar, Tongi, Gazipur, Narayanganj, Keraniganj, Fatullah, Demra and Sabujbagh, official documents show.
Meanwhile, various municipal authorities, including that of Savar, have approved hundreds of buildings within Rajuk jurisdiction even though they lack technical manpower as required by laws.
As per Building Construction Act and BNBC, only an authorised officer along with a building construction committee of Rajuk can approve a building design within an area of an approved master plan.
Such approval also requires supervision by enlisted architect, structural engineer, geotechnical engineer, a town planner as per laws and above all a set of rules. But a Pourashava lacks all of those.
The municipality ordinance has a sketchy provision for building approval by municipalities. Rajuk wrote to Savar mayor in January this year asking him not to approve building designs within Rajuk's jurisdiction.
The nine-story Rana Plaza was built with a municipality approval for five stories and is located within Rajuk master plan.