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Chief Representative's Speech

September 5, 2014

International Seminar on Seismic Design Retrofitting and Good Practices of Building Construction for Safer Cities

Honorable Chief Guest, Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, Minister for Housing and Public Works,

Honorable Chairperson, Mr. Md. Golam Rabbani, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Public Works,

Distinguished guests from abroad and Bangladesh,

Ladies and gentlemen.

Assalam alaikum.

I am pleased to attend the inaugural session of such a worthwhile international seminar on Seismic Design, Retrofitting and Good Practices of Building Construction for Safer Cities.

The urban population of the current developing world is projected to be 5.3 billion by 2050 out of which 3.3 billion is to be in Asia. Here Dhaka is one of the fastest growing cities in Asia the population of which is increasing to more than 20 million by 2025.

According to "World Risk Report 2012" published by the United Nations University, Bangladesh is categorized as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and Dhaka is one of the most vulnerable cities to earthquake due to its proximity to several active faults. A recent estimate by UNDP alarmed that in case an earthquake of 6.5 magnitude hits Dhaka, more than 88,000 buildings could collapse causing tremendous human sufferings.

Against this backdrop, we cannot overemphasize the importance of enforcement of building code for urban safety. Though the Government of Bangladesh enacted a national building code, BNBC, in 1993, its proper execution and timely upgrade has been a pressing matter till now. In fact, the revised BNBC was drafted in 2006 but still under consideration. And what is worse, even the existing BNBC is not necessarily obeyed in construction and inspection of buildings, thereby leaving Bangladesh all the more vulnerable to earthquake.

Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA, has been supporting disaster management in Bangladesh since 1974 providing US$650 million. JICA started its support for capacity development on disaster resistant techniques of construction and retrofitting right after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011. The project has been extending technical cooperation to the Public Works Department in:

(1) Developing an inventory of 2,000 public buildings;

(2) Introducing various seismic assessment methods;

(3) Developing retrofitting capacity for more than 100 engineers in both public and private sectors;

(4) Improving quality of building construction;

(5) Awareness raising for building safety; and

(6) Development of technical guidelines and manuals for retrofitting and construction in conformity to BNBC.

Thanks to strong motivation and ownership of PWD, the engineers have become quite capable during the past two years, and several pilot projects of retrofitting in Dhaka have been going well.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all remember Rana Plaza which collapsed in April 2013 with no earthquake whatsoever taking more than 1,100 innocent lives. The tragedy intensely reminded us of latent but imminent danger of buildings in Bangladesh. JICA quickly took action with PWD, Bangladesh Bank, BGMEA and BKMEA expanding technical cooperation for seismic assessment of RMG factories and diverting a part of ongoing soft-loan assistance to the ensuing retrofitting works or reconstruction. Through the urgent support to RMG factories, we found that reinforced-concrete buildings in Dhaka are 3 to 5 times more vulnerable than those in Japan. We also found from preliminary seismic assessment of RMG factories that more than 60% of the factories are not satisfying the design requirement of BNBC.

We are encouraged by the strong commitment of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works to conduct in-depth seismic assessment in accordance with BNBC. In order to ensure firm and effective implementation of BNBC, the number of capable engineers must be drastically augmented, and an inter-ministerial coordination mechanism should be developed to cover both private and public buildings. We at JICA will try to expand our support for building safety against earthquake through technical cooperation as well as soft-loan assistance.

This international seminar is really an epoch-making event which should be taken as a good opportunity for mainstreaming building safety in the public policy of Bangladesh. I hope all participants will learn a lot from overseas experiences and good practices.

Shobaike Annek Donnobad, Thank you very much.

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