Unplanned urbanisation and earthquake risks

Devise measures to ensure effective services in emergency situations

Published : 13 Jun 2022 08:55 PM

In his budget speech for 2022-23, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal pointed out that an earthquake vulnerability assessment for buildings in Dhaka city is going on under the Urban Resilience Project. Under the project, a risk assessment of Dhaka is being done and will be completed by this year.

Because of rapid and poorly planned urbanisation, big cities in Bangladesh particularly capital Dhaka and port city Chattogram are becoming more and more vulnerable to both natural and man-made hazards. Factors such as poor living standards, construction of infrastructures without consideration of safety measures, lack of public awareness of hazards, and poorly enforced building code are worsening the situation further.

Bangladesh is known for rural hazards especially flood, but these days urban hazards have become more frequent and harsher. Living in this overcrowded jungle of concrete, it is horrifying to imagine how would this town survive if an intense earthquake takes place? Experts apprehend that a powerful earthquake can claim several thousands of lives and cause huge economic losses through damaging key infrastructures. 

Reinforcing urban governance has

 become very necessary 

on the part of the government 

and city planners

However, it is worth mentioning that from 2020 till now, there were 27 small earthquakes in Bangladesh and its immediate surrounding regions of Meghalaya, Tripura, West Bengal and Assam. Not one of them was above 5.3 on the Richter Scale.

Reinforcing urban governance has become very necessary on the part of the government and city planners. There are numerous facets of current urban planning and development that pose serious threats to the life and wealth of city dwellers. For example, the lack of enforcement of building code, planning permission and regulatory investment, often linked to corruption, allow the transfer of risk from construction companies to those who live and work in the buildings. 

Proper implementation of land use plan and enforcement of building code are also important to make an urban area more resilient to disasters like earthquake. Also multi-hazard approaches need to be implemented with a view to reducing risks that will make Bangladesh safer in the long-run. 

For making the cities safer and reducing urban disaster risks, there is no alternative to strengthening capacity of local government to ensure effective services in emergency situations.