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Saturday, 23 January 2010

Addis Ababa and major cities are in danger !!!!

Tedla Asfaw

I reread the tenth anniversary magazine of the Ethiopian Association of Civil Engineers (EACE) special issue (August 2008 ) after a piece by Samuel Kinde, "Earth quake risks in Ethiopia" posted on Ethiopian websites this week to have a background on our country infrastructure development and what we can learn from the January 2010 devastating earth quake in Haiti which took the lives of more than two hundred thousands of Haitians and more than half million people homeless.
Samuel Kinde informed us most of our structures are not designed taking into account the earthquake factor and on the EACE tenth anniversary report I was surprised that there was no mention of earthquake. Ato Samuel Kinde reported that in 1995 their was adoption of the building code of standards for earthquake and still in most cases buildings are mushrooming without strict adoption of this code.
I wonder why EACE has ignored the 1995 building code as one of a great achievements and call for its enforcement on its ten year anniversary celebration. While we celebrate the great achievements of our civil engineering in both human and physical capacity we can not forget or downplay the earthquake factor.
Ato Samuel Kinde piece is timely for all of us, engineers, ordinary citizens and politicians that in the age of mushrooming and unsafe construction we are multiplying the danger of lives and properties to be lost as we "celebrate development" in major cities. In the last five decades as reported on Ato Samuel Kindie's piece we had eight earthquakes, the recent one in 1999 two hundred fifty miles far from Addis Ababa, measuring more than 6 in Richter scale that affected populated areas with no huge loss of lives. But such pure luck will not be the case in the future when Haiti's capital Port Au prince was devastated which never faced such disaster in more than two centuries.
The last two decades of high rise buildings and major roads development without strict building code for earthquake prone Addis Ababa and other major cities will take the lives and huge displacement of people, the monetary damage for poor Ethiopia will be tremendous.
The danger of flooding from the collapse of dams and the release of poison from the failure of pipes on the industrial section of Addis Ababa were also pointed on Ato Samuel Kinde timely piece, retrofitting has to be done in the hospitals, schools and major public buildings and strict building code has to be enforced on the new to be built structures as he suggested as solution.
Foreign built roads like the one built by Chinese in Addis Ababa and dams newly completed and soon to be finished if not designed according for earthquake should be corrected before it collapses. However, most of the retrofitting as Ato Samuel Kinde argues needs huge financial resources and it can not be done by private or government alone.
International financial assistance is the way to go and that can be achieved if the government authorities present a proposal according to Ato Samuel. A country like Ethiopia which has many problems, politics and corruption seems not ready like we saw in Haiti to tackle these problems honestly currently.
The current regime which call itself a "Development State" without any transparency and legitimacy will aggravate our situation by its trademark of arrogance. However, professionals back home and here in diaspora keep on pressing both the regime and the international community to implement the recommendation of the Addis Ababa RADIUS Project Report of Sept. 1999.