By Justin PummellJanuary 15, 2016
With a population of over 14 million, Dhaka, Bangladesh, is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Each year, its population grows with increased urbanization and opportunity. Its crowded streets are often chocked with vehicles and people, leaving very little open space. Urban development continues to occur, with buildings regularly increasing in height and new structures popping up overnight. To make things even more challenging, Dhaka sits in a location vulnerable to earthquake. The Madhupur Fault sits just to the north of the city, and has a historical record of seismic activity. According to a 2009 study by the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme, a "worst-case scenario" 7.5 magnitude earthquake along this fault could take place, leaving more than 100,000 people dead in Bangladesh. Some 400,000 buildings in the country's three largest cities - Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet -- could be damaged "beyond repair."
Knowing this vulnerability, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), in support of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) worked with officials from the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief and the Department of Disaster Management to develop a debris management plan for Dhaka City.
"The plan is designed to assist the Government of Bangladesh to have a set of procedures and processes in place to support post-disaster cleanup in the city," said Sean Dowling, lead USACE contributor to the Dhaka City Debris Plan.
According to Dowling, who is a civil emergency planner for USACE-Pacific Ocean Division, "The plan has been under development since 2013, and has featured multiple iterations and updates that incorporate lessons-learned from around the world, including recent debris clearance experience from the April 25, 2015 earthquake in Nepal." "We met with so many experts in Bangladesh, and their knowledge and insight has made this plan possible," he said.
During the development of the debris plan, USACE worked closely with the U.S. Embassy's Office of Defense Cooperation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. First, the team gathered as much information it could about traditional debris practices in Dhaka City, as well as historical debris planning from previous earthquakes around the world. The team then visited with Government of Bangladesh stakeholders, the Bangladesh military, international organizations and non-government organizations to understand context, challenges, and previous debris planning efforts. The team and their Bangladesh counterparts prepared a draft plan, which was reviewed and edited by the Government of Bangladesh.
The team's efforts were then coupled with the United Nations Development Programme, which had been tasked to develop similar debris plans for Chittagong and Sylhet. The final versions of the initial debris plans were turned over in November 2015 to the Government of Bangladesh.
USACE incorporated many of its domestic experiences from the United States, and coupled this with international experience to prepare the plan.
"A lot of hard work went into this effort, but there is always more work to be done, said Dowling. "A plan is never really complete--It needs to be tested and modified continuously to be effective."
As the plan moves forward, it will be used to support Bangladesh's existing Standing Order on Disasters and Disaster Management Plan. The debris plan, which was funded by USPACOM, is one of many USACE efforts in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to build partner capacity.
To learn more about USACE's effort in the region, please visit http://www.pod.usace.army.mil/.