Laws Need to Be Updated to Handle Man-Made Disasters

Topics: Law, Tort, Common law Pages: 6 (1760 words) Published: August 22, 2013
VOL 20 NO 157 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Monday, August 19 2013

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Laws need to be updated to handle man-made disasters
Published : Monday, 19 August 2013

Man-made disasters are attributable to conditions resulting from human conduct such as act of gross negligence, gross inaction or serious errors. Unlike natural disasters, preventive and regulatory measures assume greater importance in the case of man-made disasters, writes M S Siddiqui

The whole nation has been after Rana due to his irresponsible act of constructing a 'defective' building with permission from the Savar municipality and allowing owners to run their garment factories there, despite cracks in the building, just with a 'certificate' from the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) that the building is safe. The UNO has been 'transferred' and the municipality chairman has been suspended. The nation is now demanding capital punishment to Rana for such a manmade disaster. The architect, contractor and engineer engaged by the builder are not yet considered responsible for the accident and the office of the Chief Inspector of Shop and Establishment is still enjoying immunity despite their negligence to prevent the disaster. They got the immunity citing the excuse of manpower shortage.

Man-made disasters are attributable to conditions resulting from human conduct such as acts of gross negligence, gross inaction or serious errors. Unlike natural disasters, preventive and regulatory measures assume greater importance in the case of man-made disasters. Periodical inspections, even when they are provided for in the rule book, are seldom done with the requisite thoroughness. The crucial defects and potential sources of danger noticed remain unaddressed and the authorities concerned fail to take punitive action against the responsible persons. The law should be updated to provide speedy and adequate redress to the victims. It is also felt that the preventive aspect is being neglected, the regulatory mechanism is clearly absent and the law is too lenient towards those violating the safety regulations or otherwise contributing to the disasters.

Common people are innocent victims of manmade disasters like (i) fire incidents, (ii) building collapses, (iii) stampedes at public places and (iv) industrial disasters viz. explosions, escape of noxious fumes and gases, mishaps in underground mines, etc., and (v) exposure to radioactive waste.

Building collapses occur on account of weak foundations not suited to the conditions of soil and water table, vulnerability to water-logging, faulty structural design, weak beams and poor quality of construction. Non-observance of earthquake resistance standards in vulnerable areas is another cause. Sufficient care is not taken while granting permissions or doing inspection at the construction stage.

The authorities like the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), the inspector of shop and establishment, fire service authority, the local government and government offices seldom exercise powers vested in them to demolish such buildings. The system of communication with superior officers is poor and this aggravates the situation.

Industrial disasters occur because of indifference on the part of the owner/manager in handling safety systems like adequate fire control equipment on the premises and emergency evacuation plans. The storage of combustible materials without even enclosing them with fire-proof walls/partition aggravates the problem. The escape of poisonous gases has a terrible impact on the safety and health of those living in the vicinity. There is no periodic inspection by the technical personnel of the government/local bodies at the time of and after issuing/renewing licences and certificates.

Fire incidents are mostly caused by electric short-circuits compounded by the lack of (a) requisite obstruction-free exit points, (b) emergency lights...
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