A strong earthquake in the neighbourhood of Bangladesh last Saturday caused large scale deaths and destructions in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Thousands have died and properties have been flattened or destroyed. Out of these three countries, Pakistan appears to have suffered the worst although the damage estimation could change as more extensive reports are received from each of these countries. Notably, some parts of Bangladesh also experienced mild earthquake for a very brief period last Saturday but no damage was reported. However, that should be no reason for anybody to be complacent here and take the earthquake threat lightly. Bangladesh may have escaped major earthquakes so far in recent times. But scientific prophecies are there about the likelihood of a powerful earthquake striking Bangladesh any time. This likelihood has been substantiated by careful expert-level studies in recent years.
Bangladesh falls squarely in one of the world's seismic zones. Experts have been predicting earthquakes in this country for a long time. But the shocking reality is that it presently has little capacity to adequately monitor earthquake. Its only earthquake monitoring unit is rather outdated. Clearly, the latest earthquake in the region should alert the concerned authorities in Bangladesh to try and acquire proper earthquake monitoring capabilities at the earliest. The merit of having well functioning earthquake measuring and monitoring devices across the country is that these might help in, at least, giving some indication of a major earthquake before its occurrence and, in that event, people can practice some precautions leading to saving of considerable lives and resources. Of course, to gain from such monitoring activities, squads of well-trained people need to be raised to work amid emergency conditions in the aftermath of a major earthquake. The squads should be formed drawing personnel from the armed forces, the police, the para-military units, the fire department, utility services, etc. They should rehearse frequently operational plans simulating a post-earthquake disaster situation. Furthermore, relevant government departments need to issue regular educative publicities to warn and advice people about how to prepare for earthquakes -- or, what to do -- so that their lives and assets can be reasonably protected.
Attention also needs to be paid in Bangladesh to building multi-storied dwellings and other structures in line with the designs in Japan where the buildings are sought to be made strong enough to withstand earthquakes. This might involve extra costs for all, including real estate developers, but the designing of such buildings must be made mandatory in view of their longer term viability and for the safety of lives and properties. A large number of high-rise buildings now dot Dhaka's skyline, some of which probably were not constructed with capacities to withstand an earthquake of greater intensity. Probably, these buildings can be recognised and, in some cases, it might be possible, even now, to make them stronger to withstand earthquakes. On the other hand, too old or weak buildings can be identified and their owners urged, or, enabled with housing loans or the like, to demolish their old homes and to build in their places new buildings strong enough to withstand earthquake shocks.
Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world; it is also unfortunately located in one of the most active seismic zones. Thus, whatever infrastructures have been added to its economy so far and assets built by its people, all stand threatened by earthquakes. A major earthquake happening in Bangladesh could severely put its economic advancement on the reverse and tremendously multiply distresses of its people from demolished assets and the need to start from scratch. It is imperative, therefore, to encourage a national campaign to create awareness and safeguards against earthquake as well as capabilities to deal with post-earthquake situations.