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Chief Representative's Speech

December 19, 2015

Joint Launch of Projects for Urban Building Safety and Resilience
(19/Dec/2015 @ Bangabandhu International Conference Center, Dhaka)

Honorable Chief Guest, Minister for Planning, Mr. A H M Mustafa Kamal,
Honorable Chairperson, Mr. Mohammad Mejbahuddin, Senior Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance,
Honorable Keynote Speaker, Dr. Jamilur Reza Choudhury, Vice Chancellor, University of Asia Pacific,
Honorable Special Guests:
Mr. Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Public Works,
Mr. Md. Shah Kamal, Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief,
Guest speakers from Chile, Turkey and Japan, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Assalam alaikum, Namaskar, and Good Morning.

First of all, on behalf of Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the relevant Ministries, Departments and the World Bank for taking the initiative in this Joint Launch of "Urban Building Safety Project" which was newly agreed on between JICA and the Government of Bangladesh and "Urban Resilience Project" which was agreed on this year as well between the World Bank and the Government of Bangladesh. I would also like to express my heartiest thanks to the honorable Minister, Mayor, secretaries and experts for attending the seminar which deserves highest consideration from all corners of the society.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Dhaka and Chittagong Metropolitan Areas collectively account for 50 percent of GDP and 15 percent of the population. The population of Dhaka, in particular, has increased tenfold in the last forty years. And the number of buildings has increased to 3 lakh in Dhaka and 1.8 lakh in Chittagong. Unfortunately, many of the buildings seem not complying with the Bangladesh National Building Code, creating a fragile environment as against earthquakes and other disasters. According to the Comprehensive Disaster Management Program issued by the Government of Bangladesh in 2009, an earthquake of Magnitude Six directly under Dhaka would severely damage 56% of buildings and crush at least 95 thousand people to death, causing a huge economic loss of at least 5% of GDP.

Here, I would like to show you the case of Nepal which was hit by the huge earthquakes in April and May this year, since I think the experiences in Nepal shed the light to Bangladesh on the importance of Disaster Risk Reduction. There is plenty of challenges in that country for recovery and reconstruction, which the World Bank and JICA have been tackling together. Coupled with fuel crisis and political instability pertaining to the adoption of a new constitution, it has been tremendously challenging in Nepal to provide assistance to the earthquake victims. Immediately after the earthquake, JICA simultaneously mobilized a Japan Disaster Relief Team for emergency response as well as a Recovery Formation Team for formulation of a recovery and reconstruction plan. And then JICA has been providing financial and technical cooperation to the Government of Nepal in the areas of planning, infrastructure development and social improvement. JICA and the World Bank have been collaborating also in Nepal to formulate a housing reconstruction program which will be officially put into operation very soon.

In Bangladesh, even without any earthquake, several buildings have collapsed. Rana Plaza collapsed in April 2013 with no earthquake whatsoever taking more than 1,100 innocent lives, intensely reminding us of latent but imminent danger of buildings in Bangladesh. Immediately after this tragedy, JICA took emergency steps in cooperation with the Public Works Department, the Bangladesh Bank, BGMEA and BKMEA, expanding an ongoing technical cooperation for seismic assessment of RMG factories and diverting a part of ongoing soft-loan assistance to their retrofitting or reconstruction works. The "Urban Building Safety Project" which we launch today is a scale-up of this emergency operation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to know that, the Government of Bangladesh is trying to improve the institutional capacity among its related departments to tackle the severe impacts of seismic hazards. The Government has recently incorporated some actions for earthquake into the National Disaster Management Plan and the Standing Order on Disaster. I appreciate the initiative of the government to train around 62,000 volunteers who are supposed to join in rescue operations when a strong earthquake hit the country. Hoping for more, we need to ensure the proper implementation of the Bangladesh National Building Code and to train more numbers of skilled engineers. Bangladesh has rich experience in responding to natural disasters. I am confident that, through effective coordination among the authorities concerned, Bangladesh can meet its ultimate goals of urban building safety and resilience. JICA is willing to keep supporting Bangladesh in this field by means of the Urban Building Safety Project and other relevant technical and research cooperation.

Today, followed by the joint launching session in the morning, experts from Chile, Turkey and Japan will kindly share their experiences in the afternoon. I hope that the sessions will provide good opportunities for all the participants to learn from foreign good practices and to discuss challenges and way forward to establish urban safety and resilience in Bangladesh.

Last of all, I congratulate all the stakeholders including the World Bank who are working hard in a collective manner to institutionalize urban safety and resilience and disseminate the value of joint effort which in return would be huge success of the people of Bangladesh.

Shobaike Onek Donnobad. Thank you very much.

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