Dhaka remains unprepared for disasters

Dhaka,  Thu,  21 September 2017
Published : 16 Jun 2017, 21:19:17

Dhaka remains unprepared for disasters

As earthquakes are impossible to forecast, how will city corporations ensure preparedness against the disaster in an earthquake-prone city like Dhaka? asks Nabil Azam Dewan
It seems that Dhaka's two city corporations would remain unprepared if a natural or man-made disaster strikes Bangladesh's densely-populated capital since Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) failed to create a single Disaster Management Committee (DMC) for any of its 57 wards. Meanwhile, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) launched only 10 DMCs out of its 36 wards. As Dhaka has long been considered an earthquake-prone city, such slow progress in disaster management can be of little help to the city's population and infrastructure in time of crisis.

In 2010, the government introduced the Standing Orders on Disaster Management to make that the authorities concerned acknowledge their duties and responsibilities regarding every aspect of disaster management at all levels and accomplish them. It requires all the ministries, divisions, departments and agencies to prepare their own action plans regarding their responsibilities to efficiently implement disaster management. 

Additionally, the government has established the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC), the Inter-Ministerial Disaster Management Coordination Committee (IMDMCC) and Cabinet Committee on Disaster Response (CCDR) in order to ensure a proper coordination of disaster-related activities at the national level. The grassroots-level coordination of such activities is supposed to be done by committees at all districts, upazilas and unions of Bangladesh with assistance from the Disaster Management Bureau. 

Likewise, the Standing Orders on Disaster Management makes it incumbent on the city corporations to form Central Disaster Management Committees (CDMCs) in addition to a committee for each ward. Such ordinance makes the mayor of each city corporation an ex-officio chairman of a CDMC while entrusting essential responsibilities on DMCs including - the reduction of risks and hazards from disasters with vulnerability analysis through a) increasing the efficiency of both government agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs); b) identifying safe zones; c) ensuring safety and security of vulnerable people including women, children and the elderly; d) storing essential medicine and first-aid; e) installing emergency hospital-camps; f) disseminating information and other responsibilities respectively to disaster victims and aid-workers.

Experts opine that Dhaka's city-dwellers are exposed to high risks from disasters as the two city corporations hardly take their responsibilities with due seriousness - merely focusing on construction activities. Evidently, the two city corporations have even wasted time to remove a large tree uprooted or broken by heavy storms! Bangladesh already witnessed a horrendous example of disaster management failure when a single building like Rana Plaza collapsed in Savar.

Surprisingly, urban planners complained that DSCC could not form the DMCs because top officials consider those to be unnecessary. Moreover, both DNCC and DSCC expressed no recent interest to conduct coordinative meetings with emergency services, public utilities and various governmental agencies for implementing disaster management activities. On the other hand, DNCC could hardly form the 10 committees without prolonged insistence of numerous NGOs under the Social and Economic Enhancement Programme (SEEP). Due to the lack of governmental monitoring, Dhaka's faulty buildings and construction activities may increase the risks for slum residents if an earthquake is likely to strike. As earthquakes are impossible to forecast, how will city corporations ensure preparedness against the disaster in an earthquake-prone city like Dhaka? 

 Dhaka city corporations cannot remain unprepared for minimising potential risks and increasing its capacity for rescue works. After all, it is not the NGOs who are entrusted with duties and responsibilities of putting in place enough preparedness against disasters - natural or otherwise. The city corporations and governmental agencies have to take up the responsibilities. 


Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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