The Minister of State for Disaster Management and Relief, Dr Md Enamur Rahman, said on Thursday the government has taken a long-term plan to make Bangladesh an earthquake-resistant state, with assistance from Japan.
He said Bangladesh will be transformed into an earthquake-tolerant country like Japan in the next 50 years.
He was speaking at a dialogue, organized by the Bangladesh Secretariat Reporters Forum (BSRF), at the media center of Bangladesh Secretariat.
"Japan will provide financial and technical assistance on this," confirmed the minister.
Enamur Rahman said the plan will be implemented in three phases. In the first phase, vulnerable infrastructure in all parts of the country, like old Dhaka, will be demolished and earthquake-resistant buildings will be constructed and distributed among the beneficiaries.
In the second phase, the high-rise buildings will be inspected, and if they are not earthquake-tolerant, they will be reinforced with retro-fitting (process of strengthening old building or structure).
And in the third phase, the Japanese government will train engineers and architects to design new buildings with a landmark of 10 Richter scale.
However, the minister of state said, buildings of archaeological value in old Dhaka will be strengthened by retro-fitting. If retro-fitting is not possible and there is a risk to life,the Japanese and Bangladeshi authorities will discuss and determine the next steps.
Replying to a query, he said after a survey there will be an agreement with the Japanese side on financial and technical matters and then the work will commence.
"There is no advanced method of early earthquake warning in the world. Bangladesh is at risk of possible earthquakes, but we couldn't do much about earthquakes or have not been able to take any steps to build an earthquake-tolerant state for so long," he warned.
The minister of state said each year between 200 and 250 people die from lightning strikes in the country, most of the casualties being in the haor area.
"Therefore, we have taken steps to set up lightning forecasting centers which will provide signals 40 minutes in advance, and also will build one-story shelters in lightning prone areas," he continued.
He said the government also has plans to install a lightning arrester.
"The prime minister has allotted three acres of land in Tejgaon for the construction of the National Emergency Operations Center to monitor disasters centrally; the centre is being constructed," he added.
He said the construction of 423 shelters is almost complete. Besides, 220 cyclone shelters have also been completed. Further work is underway to build 550 Mujib forts, which are handicapped-friendly and have solar facilities.
Additionally, to ease the distribution of relief, 66 relief warehouses are being constructed in the 64 districts of the country, said the minister.
The dialogue was chaired by BSRF President Tapan Biswas and moderated by General Secretary Shamim Ahmed.