41 buildings of 25 organistions are vulnerable to earthquake

Three buildings of BSMMU have been identified as risky by RAJUK
File photo

Every day hundreds of people go to ‘A’ block building of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU). The building also houses many shops on the ground floor.

Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha (RAJUK) has asked BSMMU authorities to demolish the building as it is at high risk in case of any earthquake.

However, neither RAJUK nor the building authorities are taking any steps in this regard.

Not only this building, RAJUK has identified 41 more such buildings in and around Dhaka city which are highly risky. Only one of these buildings has been demolished but the other buildings still stand tall.

RAJUK sources said it conducted ‘Rapid Visual Assessment’ of a total of 3,252 buildings of government, semi-government and autonomous organisations under its urban resilience project in the capital and adjacent areas.

Later a ‘Preliminary Engineering Assessment (PEA)’ was conducted on 579 of the buildings identified as comparatively vulnerable. PEA marked 42 buildings as very risky and in need of demolition.

Mehedi Ahmed Ansary, professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), was the chairman of the technical committee of the project.

He told Prothom Alo that 42 buildings are very risky as per earthquake related map of National Building Code. As per international standard, if retrofitting cost of an old building is estimated to exceed 40 per cent cost of constructing a new building, then the building is recommended to be demolished.

This was the case for these 42 buildings. However, concerned authorities can preserve buildings with historical values through retrofitting.

Two more blocks—‘B’ and ‘D’ blocks—are also among the high risk buildings. 20 more buildings in Dhaka, 3 in Gazipur, 6 in Savar, 8 in Narayanganj and one in Keraniganj are identified as very risky.

Of these, a building of Kabi Nazrul Government College is century-old. Other buildings were constructed in or after the 1960s. Four of the buildings were constructed in or after 2000. 25 are three or four storey buildings, one is 17 storey building and another is 10 storey.

RAJUK has not published the list of these buildings formally but this correspondent has confirmed the matter gleaning information from various sources.

President of Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) Mohammad Fazle Reza Suman said a decision to publish the list of the risky buildings was taken at a recent meeting of the city development committee but it was not published later for reasons unknown. In this circumstance, RAJUK has to take the responsibility if anything happens to these buildings. 

During a recent visit (on 12 April) it was found that the Shahbagh Market in the ground floor of BSMMU ‘A’ block building has 49 shops including pharmacy and grocery and 4 restaurants. 

Azizur Rahman, owner of M/S Medicourse, told Prothom Alo, “Even the headquarters of RAJUK is risky. Before demolishing this building (Shahbagh Market), RAJUK should demolish its own building,”

He said he has no confidence in RAJUK's assessment.

A fresh assessment should be conducted by BUET and necessary action can be taken only based on that, he added.

BSMMU’s B block (Basic treatment science building) and D block are also identified as risky buildings. The 17-storey D block building was constructed in 2007

Other than the market, the A block building also houses the transfusion medicine department, central library, canteen, seminar room and hostel.

BSMMU’s B block (Basic treatment science building) and D block are also identified as risky buildings. The 17-storey D block building was constructed in 2007. 

Asked, BSMMU vice chancellor Md Sharfuddin Ahmed said as D block building is not so old, a letter has been sent to RAJUK to ‘review’ the decision again about this building. Steps would be taken after getting a reply from them.

He also maintained that ‘A’ and ‘B’ block buildings can still be used. But responsibility would fall on the BSMMU’s shoulder if anything happens to these two buildings and a decision would be taken upon further direction of RAJUK.

Urban resilience project’s director Abdul Latif Helali confirmed that they received a letter from BSMMU. He said BSMMU authorities can assess the building by BUET if they want to challenge the RAJUK recommendation.

RAJUK does not have any scope to reassess the building again, he added.

23 risky buildings in capital

The buildings at high risk other than three buildings of BSMMU in Dhaka city are:  Two buildings of Badda Alatunnesa High School (Teachers Auditorium and Academic Building), three buildings of Dhaka Collegiate School (Main Building, Science Building and Hall Building), Swadhinata Bhaban of Donia University College, Science Building (Building No-3) of Mirpur Government Bangla College, academic building of Demra’s Haider Ali School and College (another three-storey risky building of this institution has been demolished), four-storey school building of Haji Ali Hossain High School in Mirpur, buildings No 1 and 2 of Kabi Nazrul Government College in Old Dhaka, one building (single building) of Khilgaon Government High School, one building (single building) of Syedabad’s Koratitola CMS Memorial High School and College, one building (single building) of Jatrabari’s Shaheed Zia Girls' School and College, one building (single building) of Tejgaon Model High School, Two buildings of Jagannath University (Samajik Bhaban-1 and Kala Bhaban) and Badda’s Chholmaid Government Primary School.

RAJUK sources said it assessed two buildings of Jagannath University by dividing them in four parts. In actuality, there are two buildings but RAJUK mentioned four buildings—Political Science building, economics department building, Kala Bhaban and the left part of Kala Bhaban.  

Jagannath University’s chief engineer Helal Uddin said they cannot identify which buildings were marked by RAJUK as risky. That’s why the university authorities decided to send a letter asking RAJUK to identify the buildings.  

It was found out that economics and political science departments run academic activities in four-storey Samajik Bhaban-1. The building has a teachers' auditorium, classrooms, seminar and department offices.

8 buildings in Narayanganj identified risky  

Narayanganj city has the most risky buildings after the capital. The risky buildings in Narayanganj are: administrative building of Government Kadam Rasul College, three buildings of Government Girls High School (academic buildings 1 and 2 and administrative building), Jahanara Imam building and Pritilata Waddedar buildings of Government Women College, two buildings of Dolpara Government High School.

Where would we take classes if two buildings of the college with 12,500 students are demolished?
Principal, Narayanganj Government Womens College

Although the two-storey Pritilata Waddedar building is marked as risky, it was seen during a visit on 6 April that another floor is being constructed in the very building. College’s principal Bedoura Binte Habib said, “We were not informed anything about demolition of the buildings. Where would we take classes if two buildings of the college with 12,500 students are demolished?”

'It can’t just be demolished'

Of the 10 risky buildings in Gazipur, Savar and Keraniganj, RAJUK listed three buildings of Mir Mosharraf Hossain Hall of Jahangirnagar University as risky.

The butterfly-shaped residential hall has 490 rooms. The university’s vice chancellor Nurul Alam told Prothom Alo, “RAJUK asked us to demolish the building. But where will we take more than 800 students who reside in this hall? It can’t just be demolished if you are asked to.”  

The other risky buildings in Savar are: one building (single building) of Darul Islam Fazil Madrasa, administrative building of Shyamlapur high school and one building of Bhakurta government high school. The risky buildings in Gazipur are: Building No 1 and 2 of Kaliganj Shramik College, AKM Fazlul Haque building of RN Government Pilot High School and one building of Keraniganj girls school and college.

Buildings not vacated

The issue of risky buildings was discussed at the city development committee’s meeting on 11 March. The meeting chaired by housing and public works secretary Kazi Wasi Uddin decided to vacate the 42 risky buildings (including one already demolished) within seven days. RAJUK was given the responsibility to take action regarding vacating the buildings.

During field visits to 10 buildings from 6 to 12 April, none were found vacated.

Asked who would take responsibility if any accident takes place in those buildings, RAJUK’s member (development control) Tanmoy Das said RAJUK does not own these buildings and the authorities of the respective buildings have to vacate and demolish these. 

RAJUK has sent letters to respective authorities to vacate the risky buildings, he added. 

(Mojibul Haque, Narayanganj; Al-Amin, Gazipur and Ashiquzzaman, Jagannath Hall contributed to this report)