UN to help with building earthquake resistance plan

By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER

YANGON — The Myanmar Engineering Society and UN-Habitat will work together to help ensure three “important” buildings in Yangon are earthquake resistant, officials from the organisations said on November 10.

Mr Bijay Karmacharya, country programme manager at UN-Habitat – the United Nations Human Settlements Programme – told a MES meeting on earthquake resistance that the three buildings would be chosen from a shortlist of 50.

U Saw Htwe Zaw, a central executive committee member of the Myanmar Engineering Society and secretary of Myanmar Earthquake Committee, said the project would mainly focus on Lanmadaw and Shwepyithar townships.

The shortlisted buildings are likely to include health and education facilities, electricity and water infrastructure, fire and police stations, and other government buildings. Some of those with the potential to be chosen are used by more than 5000 people each day, Saw Htwe Zaw said.

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Some participants at the meeting suggested that the project be expanded to include at-risk religious buildings and facilities for orphans, the elderly and disabled.

UN-Habitat will help draft guidelines for building retrofits for when work is carried out. After examining the 50 buildings, the three weakest and oldest will be renovated. Restoration is expected to be complete by the end of 2017, Saw Htwe Zaw said, adding that he hoped the project could be expanded.

“If all [50 of the buildings] can be upgraded for better earthquake resilience then that would be very helpful,” he told reporters after the meeting.

“Earthquakes are not predictable like weather events but at the same time we know we are at risk, so then government should make preparations to minimise the damage when an earthquake hits.”

Mr Shashank Mishra, a programme manager for disaster risk reduction at UN-Habitat, said the failure to enforce construction laws and standards had created “challenges” for earthquake readiness.

In an effort to raise standards in the industry, UN-Habitat submitted a draft Myanmar National Building Code to the Ministry of Construction in 2012. The draft was revised in cooperation with the ministry in March 2016 but has not yet been enacted, he said.

“The Myanmar National Building Code has to be enforced – everyone has to follow it,” he said, adding that it needed to apply to both public and private buildings.

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