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Bangladesh at extreme risk
Publication Date : 17-08-2012
The news that Bangladesh tops the list among 197 nations surveyed under “Natural Hazards Risk Atlas 2011”, a report by respected British risk consultancy firm Maplecroft, is disturbing to say the least. The report states that we fall in the “extreme risk” category as Bangladesh suffers from weak infrastructure and poor governance, the combination of the two makes Bangladesh's economy especially vulnerable and adversely affects the economy's capacity to rebound in the aftermath of a major disaster.
Although Bangladesh has been lauded for its disaster preparedness plans, the country still lags behind in tackling flash flooding. The best example of such unpreparedness was driven home when cyclone Aila struck and even after three years, the affected communities dislodged from homes are yet to be rehabilitated. With the case of earthquake preparedness, Bangladesh's capacity to deal with a major quake, when it comes, is sorely lacking. Although contingency plans for earthquake preparedness were drafted in 2010, these remain unimplemented. For instance, the government's plan to raise a volunteer corps of 62,000 cadres and equip the fire service and civil defence department with search and rescue training activities remain unfulfilled. If one is to take at face value a survey conducted by the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP), some 250,000 buildings in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet are extremely vulnerable to earthquakes. Furthermore, in the absence of proper enforcement of the Bangladesh National Building Code, most buildings in the country are designed and constructed without taking into account potential seismic activity.
It has become imperative that Bangladesh starts work on a better forecasting system involving communities to mitigate natural disasters like flash flooding. On the seismic front, the government must take into cognizance the fact that the building code needs to be adhered to not only for all new infrastructure being built, but that older structures need to be identified and vulnerable buildings need to retrofit to withstand a major quake.