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Chief Representative's Speech

February 23, 2014

Seminar on Retrofitting of Vulnerable Buildings & Quality Construction of Buildings for Safer Cities

Photo

Honorable Minister Mosharraf Hossain, Ministry of Housing and Public Works
Honorable Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief
His Excellency Ambassador Shiro Sadoshima
Mr. Golam Rabbani, Secretary to Ministry of Housing and Public Works
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen:

Assalam alaikum and good morning.

First, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you all for sparing your precious time for today's seminar.

It was anxiety about earthquake hazard in Bangladesh that prompted JICA to start this capacity building project in March 2011. Our concern developed into a sense of crisis as we found that reinforced-concrete buildings in Bangladesh are 3 to 5 times more vulnerable than those in Japan. According to United Nations' estimate, damages caused by a strong earthquake in this country could amount to staggering US$100 billion.

Our sense of crisis turned into a conviction when Rana Plaza collapsed last April with no earthquake whatsoever, taking more than 1,100 innocent lives. Owing to the unexpected tragedy, we recognized immense importance of this capacity building project and are once again determined to make it successful in order not to waste the pitiful victims.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Under the capacity building project, JICA has extended its technical cooperation in (1) Developing an inventory of 2,000 public buildings, (2) Introducing various seismic assessment method, (3) Developing retrofitting capacity for more than 100 engineers in both public and private sectors, (4) Improving quality of construction, and (5) Awareness raising for building safety and disaster management.

Besides, JICA agreed to provide Public Works Department with additional technical cooperation for seismic assessment of RMG factories, and also agreed with Bangladesh Bank to finance the ensuing retrofitting works by earmarking US$10 million out of a financial sector loan from JICA to the Bank.

I would like to stress that compliance to BNBC, Bangladesh National Building Code, the sole standard for building construction, must be the top priority. We are encouraged by strong commitment shown by Ministry of Housing and Public Works in conducting in-depth seismic assessment of RMG factories in accordance with BNBC.

It is tenable that consideration has been given to RMG industry before others, for the industry covers 25% of GDP and 80% of exports. Still, much more people belonging to other industries and businesses are working and even living in endangered buildings. Many new buildings are being constructed not necessarily abiding by BNBC. Although nobody knows when the next earthquake will hit Bangladesh, we have no time to dissipate given that more than one hundred years have already passed since Great Assam Earthquake in 1897.

We JICA would like to earnestly steer the capacity building project during the next fourth and last year and, in due course, examine how we can be of any further assistance in enhancing building safety in Bangladesh.

Dhonnobad. Thank you.

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