It is indeed unsettling to note that when it comes to earthquake of a high magnitude, our disaster management preparedness is almost nonexistent. This is distressing as such a tremor in the Modhupur fault line will spell disaster for Dhaka, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Experts at a seminar a few days ago said that an earthquake of 7.5 would kill around 1 lakh people, 1.6 lakh families would be displaced, not to mention the 72,000 buildings that would be razed to the ground in the capital alone.
The ever-increasing density of population in the city and unplanned urbanisation over the last couple of decades has certainly increased our vulnerabilities. It, however, defies any sense of logic that despite repeated calls to demolish structurally unsafe buildings, no such measure has been taken to that effect. Equally perturbing is the non-implementation of the building code and the lack of monitoring of new structures at their planning stages. To make it worse, land-owners, the developers, the authorities concerned, it seems, are oblivious of the catastrophe that lies in the wait for us.
It is better to be safe than sorry. Pulling down risky buildings, strictly enforcing the national building code and retrofitting important structures are the order of the day. It is also crucial to coordinate the disaster management efforts so that mock drills and other preparedness exercises can be seamlessly carried out. It is imperative that we prepare ourselves to promptly respond in case of eventualities. Also, appropriate acquisition of rescue equipments and gearing up operational modalities should be undertaken immediately.