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Rebuilding old, dilapidated buildings sound nice: But another money wasting project

13 May 2022


IT IS good to know that the government is planning to reconstruct the old and dilapidated public residential buildings that have weakened over time. These buildings are dotted in the residential areas across the country. These old-fashioned buildings also give a shabby look. Keeping in mind the prediction that the country may be hit by a major earthquake anytime in future, this plan of the government indeed deserves praise. Therefore, the sooner this renovation plan is materialised the better.
But if our past experiences with building pieces of public structure by the government are any indicators to go by, we can hardly be sure that corruption and mismanagement would not turn our expectation from sweet to sour once the work of reconstruction begins. The stories of corruption surrounding the materialisation of this kind of public infrastructure projects are endless and bizarre.
From overestimation of the cost and tendering of the project to the actual work of construction, everywhere embezzlement of public funds takes place resulting in the poor quality of infrastructure. We have seen, rather horribly, that bamboos were used instead of iron rods in many instances, brick chips were used where stone chips were necessary and sanctioned cement was not used in due proportion and it was of poor quality. The corruption was so pervasive in many public infrastructure projects that science of civil engineering became a matter of fun in Bangladesh.     
Take for example the prime minister's Ashrayan-2 project for the rehabilitation for the homeless people. These tin-shade houses were constructed using so much substandard and low quality materials that many of these built houses collapsed before they were handed over to the poor. It was a case of real embarrassment.
Therefore, there is every necessity to become guarded right from the beginning that corruption does not enter the project of reconstructing the old residential buildings and the Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) is strictly followed. When these buildings will be reconstructed with financial and technical support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), it must be ensured that everything is rightly followed according to the plan so that once reconstructed they can really withstand a tremor measuring 7.5 in the Richter Scale.
Of the old public buildings there are some that have been declared as 'archeological heritage'. It is expected that these would not be demolished but retrofitted as has been declared by the government.

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