Forum for physical development (FPD) and Bangladesh Earthquake society (BES) jointly arranged a series of round table discussions on September 29, 30 and October 2 and October 3, 2009. The second round table discussion was regarding Present Condition and Preparedness in respect of Earthquake in Bangladesh.

The round table conference was presided over by Dr. Toufiq M. Seraj, Chairman, FPD and moderated by Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal, Executive Director, FPD. On the advent of the round table, Toufique M. Seraj described the aims and objectives of FPD. He said, FPD is a forum for the professionals. People of different professions both from home & aboard can take part and give opinions in country’s development activities. Their opinion and experiences will enrich our thought process. The findings of these discussions will lead us to bring out a publication in a complied form which will be reference document for the concerned sectors.

Held on: September 30, 2010

Venue: Sheltech Lounge, Sheltech Tower, 55 B U Kazi Nuruzzaman Road, Dhaka 1205.

The Participants:

  1. Toufiq. M. Seraj, Chairman, FPD, Managing Director, Shelteck Pvt. Limited;
  2. Architect Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal, Executive Director, FPD, Chairman, Building For Future Ltd.;
  3. Engineer Tanveerul Haque Probal, Finance Director, FPD, Ex-President, REHAB; Managing Director, Building For Future Ltd.;
  4. Engineer Chowdhury Jamal Ashraf, Director, FPD;
  5. Munaj Ahmed Noor, General Secretary, Bangladesh Earthquake Society (BES);
  6. Professor Dr. S.I Khan, Professor, Disaster Management Department, BRAC University;
  7. Architect A.S.M. Ismail, Chief Architect, Dept. of Architecture, Govt. of Bangladesh;
  8. Kamrul Hasan, Additional Project director, Bangladesh Railway
  9. Ishrat Islam, Associate Professor, Department of Urban & Regional Planning, BUET
  10. Professor Md. Emdadul Haque, Geology Department, JahangirnagarUniversity
  11. Architect-Planner Khondokar Neaz Rahman, BRAC University
  12. M.A. Sobhan, Director, DPM Consultants
  13. Major Motiur Rahman, Director, Fire Service and Civil Defense
  14. Engineer Md. Mynul Hossain, Manager (Engineering), Bangladesh Building Systems Limited
  15. Planner M.M. Ashraf Reza Faridee, Assistant Chief, Planning Commission
  16. Adil Mohammad Khan, Assistant Professor, Urban & Regional Planning Department, Jahangirnagar University

 The Supporting Participants:

  1. Muhammad Ariful Islam, Research Coordinator, Forum For Physical Development (FPD)
  2. Nazmul Ahsan, Research Officer, Forum For Physical Development (FPD)
  3. Nilima Nasrin, Research Officer, Forum For Physical Development (FPD)
  4. Mamun Chowdhury, Research Officer, Forum For Physical Development (FPD)

 Dr. Taufiq M. Seraj

Recently, there had been several earthquakes in Dhaka. The first one occurred on September 10, 2010 at 10.45 pm was mild but the second one was stronger than the previous one which happened at about 1 pm on September 11, 2010. These events have created panic among the people. In addition, newspapers published many articles and predictions by professionals of different discipline. I am not sure, whether those were based on scientific data or only from general knowledge. In this circumstance, on behalf of FPD, we have arranged a series of round table discussions together with Bangladesh Earthquake society (BES). Today is the second round table discussion. I welcome our respected guest present here. I shall ask our moderator to start business.

Architect Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal

As mentioned by our chairman, this is the 2nd round table. Unfortunately I was not present in the 1st one. Our guests are like me didn’t have the chance to know the outcome of that discussion. From FPD, we organize such round table meetings on different topics and if needed we go for series of them on the same topic. FPD can do it alone or can join with some other organization which has expertise on the matter. For this series ‘Bangladesh Earthquake Society’ has joined with us. It will be matter if we first listen to the summary of the previous meeting which held on “Magnitude & Intensity of Earthquake Risk in Bangladesh”. Professor Dr. Munaj Ahmed Noor, representing Bangladesh Earthquake Society presented the summary.

Dr. Munaz Ahmed Noor, General Secretary, (BES)

At first, I welcome everyone present in the seminar on behalf of BES, le me give a short outline of the first seminar. This will be really in brief, there were lot of discussions, I shall say some important points of those.

There is a layer of alluvium soil below the surface about 18-20 km depth.

In this sedimentation zone, earthquake may occur with maximum 4 to 5.5 magnitudes in the Richter scale.

From above we can say, maximum 6.2 magnitude earthquake may happen in this region.

In our country, risk determination for earthquake, method should be more improved.

Initially, we have to determine the limit of risk because earthquake may occur at different magnitude at different areas.

Soil amplification could be from 1.5 to 3 times. It is now done by one dimensional Analysis which is very traditional method. Now two dimensional analysis can be used for earthquake movement determination.

There is shortage of primary data to determine the risk level. So to enrich the information stock, we need to take initiatives.

Professor Md. Emdadul Haque

There is no clear and obvious information about earthquake in Bangladesh. But we should not overlook the possibility of Earthquake. The apparent increase of mild earthquake is the indication of strong earthquake or the propagation of fractures from the adjacent seismic zones. But when the earthquake will happen, it is quite uncertain. Dauki Fault is very dangerous for Bangladesh. Sylhet, Rangamati, and Bandarbon will bear the maximum stress and once the earthquake will be above 7 or 8 in Bangladesh. Tectonic activities near the fault zone of India and Bangladesh is increasing. So we need to take preparation form now. So propaganda by government for raising public awareness has to be started. In addition, steps are to be taken as instant duties at the time of earthquake through training or other awareness rising means.

Architect A.S.M. Ismail

Many multistoried buildings have been constructed in last few years. But many of those are made without involvement of professionals like engineers and architects. These buildings are too vulnerable to withstand against earthquake. Today awareness has increased among mass people. Most of the buildings are being built following the guidelines of engineers, architects. In the past, public awareness regarding earthquake was very little. But now it is increasing due to various earthquake researches, news presentations by newspapers and electronic media. Recently many news regarding earthquake have been published which are ambiguous and extravagant to a great extent. There may be different opinions among professionals; experts of different discipline will see things from different perspective. We have to convey the right message to the common people. As we are much vulnerable to earthquake, it is really important to address this issue.

Hopefully, we are much aware than past. Now, in Dhaka city most of the buildings are developer controlled and engineer supported. Building code is going to be revised soon. Earthquake related latest data, information would be included in that edited version. I am involved in the review process of the building code. We are very careful about structural issues now; new concepts are added in the code regarding Earthquake.

Dr. Taufiq M. Seraj: Would building code -93 be reviewed extensively? The existing one is already 17 years old and we have experienced many new things within this period.

A.S.M. Ismail: Yes, it would be reviewed thoroughly. In fact, there would be lot of changes from the previous version. There would be an immense change specially in earthquake and planning aspects. One issue should be clear that there is no relationship between Richter scale and building code, Building code should be followed while designing a building. So design of a structure at what Richter scale is quite meaningless.

Likewise, Fragility analysis could be conducted to investigate the risk condition of a building. Steps are to be taken to make the risky structures risk free as for as possible.

Major Matiur Rahman, Director Fire Service and Civil Defense

You all understand Fire service is one of the most important departments for a disaster like earthquake. We see this issue as a disaster like a fire disaster. It is most likely that there will be fire hazards if a disaster like earthquake happens. When a building collapses, there is every possibility that the gas and electricity line will rapture. We have experiences of fire, but no experience of managing earthquake devastation. In worst case, the roads also can become impossible to reach. The main task will be rescue of the taped or wounded and dead people. If you have huge equipments but no roads to go, how will you reach on time? There are places in the city where we can’t approach. If you don’t have the source of water how can you fight the fire? We have serious shortage of water supply in the city you all know that, if you like to keep some reserve it will not be possible. Look at our past, all of our cities and towns had lot of water sources. Dhaka had lakes, khals, water tanks, ponds. These water bodies were very useful, they were good breathing space. For a reasonable standard of disaster management we must consider these facts.

Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal:

Is unplanned urbanization responsible for this?

Major Matiur Rahman: Yes, unplanned urbanization is also a big factor for disaster issue. So full grill for veranda should not be designed for residential houses. Because it hampers the rescue work in post earthquake. The fire exit and main gate of a building must be fire resistant. For a proper rescue operation, adequate open space around building is also necessary.

As an organization, we have some plans and we are proceedings with that. We have trained 62 thousand people regarding disaster management; we are imposing safety requirements in the buildings, assisting fire drill to office/ factory buildings. It is good that many private companies are now interested in fire drill. We are working for public awareness in Dhaka city whether they have fire safety equipments and arrangements. We have divided the city into wards in our trainings, every ward has 200 trained people, and they will have refreshment training including drills every three months interval.

We have huge limitations regarding fund, equipments and manpower. We are not sufficient to control fire in a high-rise building. For the Bashundhara city fire, you saw we did our best; we could do better with proper equipments. That building had its own safety system which became useless at that time. Thanks God it was a holiday, otherwise it could cause death of many people. One issue I like to address in this forum, whenever there is a fire, we do not get information immediately, we do not waste time in preparation, but you know to reach the place with our vehicles is not easy in the city. But, people become impatient, we need cooperation, support. How much water a vehicle can bring, but we do not get water sources, it is not easy to convince buildings nearby to sacrifice water from their reservoirs. Also I like to mention, many people want to volunteer, they participate spontaneously, and we should think a way how to organize them in our pursuit.

Dr. Toufiq M. Seraj

Media can give us message about earthquake. We know that, Highway in Los Angeles was cracked due to Earthquake. So in this respect, I like to ask how many buildings, bridge and culverts of our country are vulnerable to earthquake. Also our railway stations are old, those are public buildings, are they safe enough?

Engr. S. Kamrul Hasan

Most of the bridges, culvert and railway were built in British period. Sometimes, repairing was made just by using brick. This kind of repairing is not enough to withstand to natural calamities in terms of load bearing capacity, reinforcement etc. So railway is very vulnerable to earthquake. Railway as a mass transport system can play the most important in the future development of Bangladesh. But unfortunately it does not get proper attention. Railway tracks are very old; it is being repaired where some problems occur in other words trouble shootings. It is not seen as an infrastructure for future usage, the stations are mostly one storied brick structure. Some have steel truss roofs on the platform. Recently, we constructed some new stations and we have a program to renew all of them.

Special recommendations can be made for railways and bridges of Bangladesh after surveying the weak condition of the infrastructures.

Dr. Ishrat Islam

There are two main reasons, behind lack of public awareness to earthquake. These are corruption and lack of political willingness. Such as, sand filing at Eastern fringe area causes liquefaction risk. So Liquefaction issue should be under consideration in land use planning and building construction Population density per building should also be reduced so that rescue operation can be done properly. In addition, community training program can also be adopted. The public buildings of each community are to be used as retrofitting and evacuation center. Critical path in shortest possible time can be kept in the plan for rescue operation. It is also important to have an infrastructural map for conducting the rescue operation. Community people can also tank part in the rescue campaign.

Dr. S.I. Khan

Shelter is the basic need of people. So it must be built above flood level in where, people can live safely. In case of earthquakes we should also be aware about it. So at first this awareness raising has to be started from home.

Earthquake probability is increasing day by day. It occurs due to different kinds of causes. In Rassia, large dams were built years ago. As a result, some places were over-weighted and imbalance was created which leaded to earthquake. In the year of 1990-91 lots of five star hotels were collapsed due to huge load of rods.

Dr. S.I Khan is a well known expert of disaster. He gave very significant some recommendation. First of all, Bangladesh should be divided into three zones considering ground acceleration. Secondly, Seismic Hazard map has to be prepared for every Upazila. Lastly, for the old building we should go for retrofitting. In this case abandoned buildings can be handed over to Earthquake society or BUET before demolition. They can get a result by shaking a building through an experiment. Another safety measure, the residents of the buildings should learn that they should switch off the main electricity line of their houses. Every building should have a reserve of 5 to 10 tons of water.

Architect Planner Khandoker Neaz Rahman, BRAC University

Earthquake resistant building has to be constructed in each community as Shelter center. There should have a map of instructions for arriving at Shelter. In our country, there is no layout map of sewerage and utility service line. Gas and electricity lines must be clearly identified at least for the shelter centers and also should have earthquake resistance in this provision.

In every community, public building should be strengthened and evacuation route has to be identified so that earthquake affected people can find the shelters easily. Independent development institutions are required to control all kind of development activities. So at first, urban planning and development authorities have to be rearranged to explore the disaster probabilities. According to the instruction of DMDP 1995, RAJUK should be better integrated.

Mr. M.A Sobhan, Director, DPM

Development of Bangladesh has accelerated more after independence. However, most of the development works have been done by private sector. So to encounter the earthquake, a model of Community Development plan has to be built. Building blocks should be developed with a grid iron layout. With such layout utility services can be provided easily and disaster management will be easier.

Planner M.M. Ashraf Reza Faridee

Lack of integration among different institutions is to be eliminated. Stage based building design approval should be included in RAJUK building approval process. Most of the cases, building constructed under self ownership are non-engineered. So development controlling authorities should be stronger to scrutinize the construction works. So in near future, decentralization of RAJUK is very important for planning Dhaka city.

Adil Mohammad Khan

Earthquake is not the cause of death of people; rather risky buildings are the reason of death. So Micro-zoning and Seismic Hazard Risk Mapping should be done for the whole country immediately through the vulnerability analysis. Earthquake factors should be considered in City Planning and Development, Land use planning, Housing development. Building laws should also be incorporated into earthquake laws and codes. Retrofitting measures (for urban and rural buildings) should be taken. Structural safety measures or building codes may vary for different risk zones. Soft storey problem (like parking space at the lower storey of the building) must be addressed as these buildings are more vulnerable to earthquake. Census on buildings may be done to determine risk. Professionals may be incorporated in urban volunteer team.

Engineer Md. Mynul Hossain

Three things we need to incorporate. These are as follows:

Implementation & Monitoring of application of code: There are sufficient regulatory bodies in Bangladesh to review the structural aspects of buildings. At present it depends on client. If clients wish, then they send to review design in BRTC or other organization. But there should be a regulatory body.

Some sort of awareness program should be promoted so that knowledge on disaster may spread up to root level.

Initiatives should also be taken to strengthen post earthquake rescue operation.

 Chowdhury Jamal Ashraf

As a member of FPD, I like to thank you all present here and for sharing your views regarding this crucial matter. I like to point out that when we talk about earthquake, we give most emphasis on Dhaka. Yes, Dhaka should be the focus; it holds 10% of our population. But there are other places of high concentration. Each of our towns has own problems. According to the earthquake zoning plan we can see which areas are more vulnerable. We should look into the present infrastructural standard of all towns and take initiatives. The places where people will take shelter are very important and I am afraid such places are not safe in the district/ Upazial towns.

Tanveerul Haque Probal

Discussion on fire hazard has been going on for a long time and some prescriptions are being followed when the buildings are made. Like the fire escape, we make for a high-rise building are useless if a regular fire drill is not performed by the users of the building. We should also give emphasis on other available technologies. It is said that the lift operation should be stopped when there is a fire, but going down with stair from a highrise building through the fire escape stair will be slow. In the modern world, there are lifts for the emergency escape. If you want to put so many mandatory safety requirements, we must forget to build buildings in small plots. Even the government agencies are selling small plots.

Awareness program is valuable indeed. We can put posters, distribute leaflets, these are needed but I think we should organize some programs in the schools. If you see the airplane safety program which they show as video or animation, we can do the same and show them in TV.

Architect Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal

Please accept our gratitude for attending this discussion. Lot of points has been raised here. Earthquake is a disaster. There are two aspects of such issues, one to consider this when we plan the future; the other is how we can survive staying in the present condition. Unfortunately we are poor in both. Our plans and projects which we are making for future lacks disaster issue. We think how strong will be our building? Will it withstand earthquake? I am afraid there is no direct answer. When we look into our present preparation to fight hazards, we see the blockages we have created trough time. Our utility lines are vulnerable, our water supply is not sufficient, our open squares are occupied, our water bodies are filled. Frequently our professionals are made responsible for it, where actually they played a small role. The policy makers of the country do not listen to the professional views, this has become a culture. FPD is a platform for the professionals to establish their opinions. We will let our nation know what we think so that they will not blame us for what we were not responsible. Thanks to everybody again.