Japan government has taken an initiative to make vulnerable building of the country's garments factories safe for the RMG workers through conducting retrofitting, a technology to make vulnerable building jolt resistant.
"Japanese technology and experience to make building earthquake resistance can help Bangladesh to strengthen its vulnerable RMG buildings for avoiding any tragic incident like Rana plaza in future," Senior Representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Hiroyuki Tomita said in a seminar at a city hotel here.
The Project Capacity Development of Natural Disaster Resistant techniques of Construction and Retrofitting for Public Buildings (CNCRP), implemented by Public Works Department (PWD) with technical support of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) organised the seminar titled "Development of Safer Building. Overcoming the Tragedy of Rana Plaza Incident".
Under CNCRP, a team of Japanese experts has been transferring retrofitting technology to the engineers of PWD and other public and private organisations since 2011. Retrofitting is a technology that could be used to make a vulnerable building earthquake resistant without demolishing it.
The JICA High official said the Japanese experts have already started their work to do retrofit to two RMG factories initially and the JICA will implement a large project soon to cover more vulnerable RMG buildings of the country.
In a presentation JICA's Assistant Programme Officer Kaniz Fatema said after tragic incident of Rana plaza, JICA took a programme titled "RMG Sector Safe Environment Project" and created a Taka 100 crore fund with the Bangladesh Bank for financing the RMG owners to make their building safe for the workers.
Under the programme, JICA requested the RMG owners to assess their factories building as well as to take the opportunity of the provided JICA fund to make the building strengthen. As per the JICA's call a total of 300 RMG factories applied for being assessed and of these factories, 214 were selected for the assessment by the CNCRP.
Of the 214 RMG factories, we found 74 percent have no legal construction permit or structural drawing, Kaniz said adding, even 65 percent of the buildings, those have legal permit documents and structural drawing, do not comply standard set by Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC).
The CNCRP project selected two factories and taken initiative to conduct retrofitting by providing the owners soft loan of 850,000 and 600,000 US dollar respectively.
"If we only consider to do retrofit to only those 26 percent of the country's total RMG factories that have legal construction permit and structural design, it will need 1.17 billion US dollar," she said.
In another presentation, JICA expert team leader Fumio Kaneko said there is a concept that retrofitting is very expensive and it is not viable for economy like Bangladesh.
But it is totally wrong. Usually it only costs 10-30 percent of new construction. Kaneko said Bangladesh is at a high risk of earthquake as the country has not experienced any major earthquake since the 19th century and most of the buildings in Bangladesh are works of masonry that increases the risk further.
For example if 300,000 buildings are in Dhaka, 150,000 buildings will be damaged by a moderate earthquake, he said.
"The Rana Plaza tragedy was indeed a wake-up call for us. It is calculated that even reinforced concrete (RC) buildings are 3-5 times more vulnerable to those buildings in Japan," he said.
PWD Chief Engineer Md. Kabir Ahmed Bhuiyan spoke as the chief guest while CNCRP project director Engr Md. Ahsan Habib gave welcome speech.
JICA Expert Deputy team leader J Matsuo, Yuko Nakagawa of JET, Professor Y. Nakano of Tokyo University, Professor M. Maeda and Professor M. Ubaura of Tohoku University and former CNCRP PD Engineer M Sikder made separate presentations in two technical sessions.