Did higher building improve Bengalis’ life?

On Wednesday, 24 April 2013 a catastrophic event happened. Eight floors of the Savar building, in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed. As a result, approximately 1300 people died and 2500 injured. Although the lives of the employees were in danger, the commercial benefit has overcome safety to re-design the original four-floor building to eight. This paper will use the ethical cycle to demonstrate both benefits and threats of having extra floors in commercial buildings based on a real case from Bangladesh.

Nightmare of Bengalis

As far as safety is concerned, the foundation of Savar building had poor quality construction materials. After the collapse, a high level of Bangladesh government committee investigated that the building was constructed on unstable land, and using extremely severe iron roads and cement in the foundation.  However, minutes of health and safety bodies have always been emphasising on “The right to a safe and healthy working environment is respected at all levels, where governments, employers and workers actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities and duties, and where the highest priority is accorded to the principle of prevention” said International Labour Organisation.

Another dark vision of Bangladesh garment industry is manipulating labour force as cheap as possible, and this is quashed not only labour rights but also children. After the collapse, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker Andrew Morgan made a documentary film by name “The True Cost” about the tragedy of Savar building. Morgan zeros in on Shima Akhter, 23, who moved from her local village to the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, at age 12 to work in the factories. “I believe these clothes are produced by our blood,” she said. This example is a drop in an ocean that richer people morally quashing labour’s rights, so we need a moral and legal obligation to protect them. No one should be allowed to exploit workers simply to run a more profitable business. 

Since the lack of enough responsibility and discouragement of Bangladesh culture for whistleblowing, the building engineers morally broke engineering societies’ codes of conduct. This fault historically recorded as the worst engineering fault in the building history and remains unavoidable. Although the engineers had knowledge about both poor foundation and unsuitableness of re-design into garment industry due to significant vibration of the building machinery, they still follow manger’s choice. Moreover, corruption has broken all virtue bonds of the engineers. Instead of choosing excellence, honesty, integrity and pride, they chose such an evil behaviour. As far as culture concern, research has shown that whistleblowing pretty much depends on Individualism and Collectivism culture dimensions. Bangladesh, based on Hofstede’s culture dimension hypothesis, is a Collectivism society. This means whistleblowing is a really rare case and unattractive.

Since politician power legalised building code in Bangladesh, a numerous of buildings are built bypass around regulation. Sohel Rana, the owner of Savar building, has used through his strong connection with Bangladesh politicians and his wealth through corruption to legalise his building, and even overcome government’s inspection teams. This is the darkest view of most Eastern and Middle East countries which rules can be flexed against corruption. It has been reported that Savar building was not the only building where these immoral and illegal practices were followed; in spite of building 4000 buildings each year in Bangladesh; for instance, in 2008 only six of them have recorded as a major issue.

Dreams of Bengalis

As Bangladesh living situation has become very difficult, the government has inspired organisations to invest and construct business for decreasing unemployment rate. Regarding garment factories, in Bangladesh, more than four million local people are employed. It is reported that people are wondering to have an enough GDP (Gross Domestic Product); for example, a 27-years-old Bengali who fled from poverty “It’s better than where I came from… At least, there’s a chance of making a living here, of a better life, perhaps,” Salahuddin says. Obviously, demand for employment not only high in Bangladesh, but also in developed countries as well.

The growth of manufacturing can benefits local woman workers for better wellbeing, and garment factories have been accounting for 80% of Bangladesh’s export which is 10% of Bangladesh’s GDP. The majority of Bangladesh garment workers are women, besides surviving themselves, they help their families and relatives. Since garment factories have been one of the main income sources, Bengali workers living under the shadow of woven machines. It has been reported that four-fifths of Bangladesh export are made by garment industries. Therefore, one tenth of whole Bengalis’ GDP is covered by this industry.   

Recently, Bangladesh has known by the second largest garment manufacturer in the world which has more than 5,600 factories, so this industry is really attractive from Bengalis’ perspective. In addition, 60% of their products have been exported to Europeans countries. This means Bangladesh is the home for foreign garment companies including H&M, Gap, ZARA and PRIMARK. Furthermore, it has been reported that Bengalis at least annually earn $20 billion in this exchange. This is one of the main reason Bengalis are attracted and inspired by this business including Sohel Rana and his partners which at least annually makes $1.8 million through Savar building.

It is argued that cheap price garment demand is significantly increased because the majority of people have concerned with poverty and fashion. It has been reported that 80% of humanity are living by less than $10 per day, and costumes through the world are enjoying purchasing clothes in lowest possible cost. The value of the market share for cheap clothing is believed to have doubled or tripled between 2004 and 2014, and clothing sector is growing at twice the rate of the clothing market as a whole. In addition fashion clothes, frankly, a majority of women are concerning about fashion. Although men demand for clothing is also increased, women due to fashion incentive are almost twice comparing with men.

33: Yu Jing, Xiaochun Mu, Hunar Aziz, Yulan Yao

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21 thoughts on “Did higher building improve Bengalis’ life?

  1. You chosed a good topic to discuss , In my opnion the number of higher building in a country dosen’t mean that people’s life improved , it is just sign to some of rich people. Especially, in the developing country the number of rich prople is limited that built higher biuliding or skyscaper , so those people will gain a lot money. In a another view , if the higher building could be employ a lot of people as much as possible , may be it would imrprove in some way people’s life. by the way Your topic will take a lot of talk.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This Conversation give us a good topic to think of. Firstly, Construction safety is very important for workers. We can see from the Conversations:”Regarding garment factories, in Bangladesh, more than four million local people are employed. ” So in Bangladesh, the government should pay attention to the quality of the construction project.
    Secondly, The government and enterprises should pay more respect to the labour rights. Disputes between labour and management have occurred in more and more countries. Poor working conditions frequent industrial accidents and failure to provide social security benefits still exist.
    Finally, enterprises not only to gain the benefits but also pay attention to the social responsibility. They should help the workers to improve their living standards.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Every profession has its own morals and ethics, some of them are closely related to people’s life, primarily medicine and engineering. Safety is a major issue in the developing countries where human rights are not well established and the laws aren’t applied on every citizen equally, rather, the weak people cannot exercise their most basic rights which are established in the global agreements and are not aware of it. As engineers, this is a great topic you chose to talk about and raise awareness of public as well as your colleague’s.

    It’s clear that corruption is the main reason behind unsafely built environments, public negligence being the second. Although this accident may be the worst of its kind in a commercial building, but there are deadlier engineering mistakes with more victims annually. I will try to explain this by giving an example that we see everywhere in our country (Kurdistan) as one of the authors of this article belong to…

    The car roads

    Here, there is almost no road which is completely intact after a year of building; instead, you can feel the waves of the roads (which are primarily asphalt) immediately after the projects opening to public use. This is being the main roads of the cities, not to mention the highways connecting the cities. We have many roads that are famous with a nickname: road of death. The reason why they are so called is obvious; too many casualties from accidents happening on them. There is a highway road near a city named Qaladuze, which is curving in a point; local residents say that no week passes without car accidents that result in several deaths for many years, and the local authorities take no action.

    There are roads under construction for more than 5 years. A small project of a traffic circle in my neighborhood has blocked the main roads for more than three years, and still continues. During these years, several changes in the design of this tiny project took place. Certainly, every change will require a new budget and expenditure. The main companies working in all the fields are owned by the politicians of the ruling parties, one way or another. Frequently, these huge corruptions are exposed by media but this happens and we have never heard of the accusation of someone responsible, who has a support from the parties. Although, people are silent and the next cycle of elections keeps the parties share of the voices unchanged. With all the mentioned, we must not forget many roads that are aged more than 30 years which were built by the former dictator regime of Iraq and are still intact! If the old technologies and engineers could build such strong and safe roads, why can’t the new?

    Regardless of the corruptions everywhere, the engineers are responsible of these catastrophes taking place, as only they can design the roads. And despite their knowledge of building unsafe roads, they still do it for their personal benefits. They need to be taught the ethics of their profession before the laws of physics. Beautiful and good laws exist in any country and even in a small tribe, but how strict they are and how well they being applied on all the citizens equally, is the matter of question.

    Besides the main purpose of this article being engineering morals, another subject regarding human rights has caught my attention; the hypocrisy of the west. After the authorities of Bangladesh (for not making strict legislations to protect its labor’s rights and not strictly enforcing the law), the first to be blamed is the foreign industrial companies who work and has built their big reputations on the shoulders of hungry people and weak children of African countries. There are many examples that show how western governments and companies invade poor and weak African and Asian countries under the
    names of human right protection, charity and humanitarian aids to steal their natural resources and exploit their labor force for the minimum wages. An example is the coffee industry: https://campaign.worldvision.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/7280_DTL_Factsheet_Coffee_Web_Single.pdf.
    And here is a precious lecture by Mallence Bart Williams on the stage of TEDx Talks, regarding the same subject: https://youtu.be/_pvNp9gHjfk

    After all, I would like to comment on some flaws in your article from a scientific perspective, as this is a scientific project:

    -Your main argument is built around a faulty assumption. How come having extra floors to be bad or unsafe? There are thousands of buildings around the world which has tens of floors and they are totally safe. You must narrow your example and specify it with a clear vision of the building situations.

    -I believe that high buildings anywhere in the world indicate to a better wellbeing and higher life quality of that nation. But the number certainly matters. Having many buildings all around a city (such as New York, Dubai… etc.) is doubted by no logic to mean that city’s people are not poor. But in your article, you have not mentioned how many high buildings are there in Bangladesh.

    -This language of storytelling implies that working is something wrong or bad! When you say “Bengali workers living under the shadow of woven machines”, so you also assume that any worker is living under the shadow of their work tools?

    -I also have some notes which are secondary. Some statistics are not accurate in this article. I read in multiple sources that 1129 people have died. Some information requires reference. Also, I cannot understand the reason to say “Los Angeles-based filmmaker”! How does it help your argument where a filmmaker lives? Is it to show their superiority? Why not only saying “a film maker” or even “an American filmmaker”?

    Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Every profession has its own morals and ethics, some of them are closely related to people’s life, primarily medicine and engineering. Safety is a major issue in the developing countries where human rights are not well established and the laws aren’t applied on every citizen equally, rather, the weak people cannot exercise their most basic rights which are established in the global agreements and are not aware of it. As engineers, this is a great topic you chose to talk about and raise awareness of public as well as your colleague’s.

    It’s clear that corruption is the main reason behind unsafely built environments, public negligence being the second. Although this accident may be the worst of its kind in a commercial building, but there are deadlier engineering mistakes with more victims annually. I will try to explain this by giving an example that we see everywhere in our country (Kurdistan) as one of the authors of this article belong to…

    The car roads

    Here, there is almost no road which is completely intact after a year of building; instead, you can feel the waves of the roads (which are primarily asphalt) immediately after the projects opening to public use. This is being the main roads of the cities, not to mention the highways connecting the cities. We have many roads that are famous with a nickname: road of death. The reason why they are so called is obvious; too many casualties from accidents happening on them. There is a highway road near a city named Qaladuze, which is curving in a point; local residents say that no week passes without car accidents that result in several deaths for many years, and the local authorities take no action.

    There are roads under construction for more than 5 years. A small project of a traffic circle in my neighborhood has blocked the main roads for more than three years, and still continues. During these years, several changes in the design of this tiny project took place. Certainly, every change will require a new budget and expenditure. The main companies working in all the fields are owned by the politicians of the ruling parties, one way or another. Frequently, these huge corruptions are exposed by media but this happens and we have never heard of the accusation of someone responsible, who has a support from the parties.

    Although, people are silent and the next cycle of elections keeps the parties share of the voices unchanged. With all the mentioned, we must not forget many roads that are aged more than 30 years which were built by the former dictator regime of Iraq and are still intact! If the old technologies and engineers could build such strong and safe roads, why can’t the new?

    Regardless of the corruptions everywhere, the engineers are responsible of these catastrophes taking place, as only they can design the roads. And despite their knowledge of building unsafe roads, they still do it for their personal benefits. They need to be taught the ethics of their profession before the laws of physics. Beautiful and good laws exist in any country and even in a small tribe, but how strict they are and how well they being applied on all the citizens equally, is the matter of question.

    Besides the main purpose of this article being engineering morals, another subject regarding human rights has caught my attention; the hypocrisy of the west. After the authorities of Bangladesh (for not making strict legislations to protect its labor’s rights and not strictly enforcing the law), the first to be blamed is the foreign industrial companies who work and has built their big reputations on the shoulders of hungry people and weak children of African countries.

    There are many examples that show how western governments and companies invade poor and weak African and Asian countries under the names of human right protection, charity and humanitarian aids to steal their natural resources and exploit their labor force for the minimum wages. An example is the coffee industry: https://campaign.worldvision.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/7280_DTL_Factsheet_Coffee_Web_Single.pdf.
    And here is a precious lecture by Mallence Bart Williams on the stage of TEDx Talks, regarding the same subject: https://youtu.be/_pvNp9gHjfk

    After all, I would like to comment on some flaws in your article from a scientific perspective, as this is a scientific project:

    -Your main argument is built around a faulty assumption. How come having extra floors to be bad or unsafe? There are thousands of buildings around the world which has tens of floors and they are totally safe. You must narrow your example and specify it with a clear vision of the building situations.

    -I believe that high buildings anywhere in the world indicate to a better wellbeing and higher life quality of that nation. But the number certainly matters. Having many buildings all around a city (such as New York, Dubai… etc.) is doubted by no logic to mean that city’s people are not poor. But in your article, you have not mentioned how many high buildings are there in Bangladesh.

    -This language of storytelling implies that working is something wrong or bad! When you say “Bengali workers living under the shadow of woven machines”, so you also assume that any worker is living under the shadow of their work tools?

    -I also have some notes which are secondary. Some statistics are not accurate in this article. I read in multiple sources that 1129 people have died. Some information requires reference. Also, I cannot understand the reason to say “Los Angeles-based filmmaker”! How does it help your argument where a filmmaker lives? Is it to show their superiority? Why not only saying “a film maker” or even “an American filmmaker”?

    Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi,

    It is down to the government to make sure the infrastructure to provide enough funds to make sure the working environment is safe. It is not uncommon to find governments from south Asia to misusing funds they receive. Therefore if they had these funds they would be able to create a safe building. This would help improve the lives of the uneducated who may struggle to find work in other areas.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t think higher building can improve the living standards of Bengalis. Cheap materials, inexperienced worker, corruption etc all can be the causes of collapse. however the problems about construct building are inaccurate to be classified as main reason that motivate Bangladesh government to decrease unemployment rate.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In my view, I just agree one part of the essay. compared to four floors buliding, eight floor building can provide more space for more people to work. It really can increase the employee rate. But, it”value is not equal to the value of life. The value of life can not be measured. Therefore, when the leaders understand the danger of transforming the building, they should forbid it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Seeing this tragedy I feel very sad, each worker have their own legitimate rights and interests, their lives should be guaranteed, but for some capitalists, profit is the top priority. In order to reduce costs and increase profits, they do as much as possible to regardless of the rights and interests of labourers, squeezing the laborers, this kind of phenomenon both in legal and moral are not allowed. Economic development is important, but the laborers are the root of the development, so protecting the legal rights and interests of labourers and give them a safe working environment is very important.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think it is a good topic to discuss. This question is about comparing value of economy and the value of life . In my view, you have a good discussion by two different aspects. But I think you should just pay attention on one part. Obviously, the value of life is far more important than that of other things. Therefore, no matter there are much large benifts, the building should not be transform

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Generally the article has aroused a meaningful topic. In the first part, the article discuss the problem that building more and more high but unsafe buildings may cause by using a catastrophic event that happened recently. While in the second part ,the article demonstrate how important the garment industry means for the country through some statistics. From my point of view, it seems that people in Bangladesh are facing a problem that every developing country need to deal with : economy or humanity? The only way to solve this is to carry out better government policies to wipe out immoral behaviors and find a more balanced way to develop economy without sacrificing peoples’ safety.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. No matter how much benefit the poor building can bring,can’t we exchange the life of the people for it.Although the GDP is so important,we can’t break the ethical principles.I don’t deny the importance of money,which can sustain our life,but love,kindness and humanity are what we stay alive for.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The idea of this passage is very good and I support it. The life is most valuable and if you lose it, it will be too late. So every people, every organization, every society and every government should take the responsibility to guard the infrustructure, including roads, buildings, bridges and so on. The corresponding laws should be established to stop and penalise the people who want to corrupt money. If people just focus on profit and earn money, he will forget the responsibility that the society endows and lost himself. I appeal that we should adopt the reasonable and sustainable economic policy to develop society and at the same time, the right of people should not be forgettable.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This discussion reminds me of the situation in most developing countries. To increase the employment rate the authorities have made different efforts to relieve the labour market tension, even those economic measure and activities do not bring a value addition to the society. However, the bottom line should be set that any economic stimulus can never put people’s lives at risk. What is worse, quite a few businessmen still try to make money from those dangerous and illegal commercial activities. So that the country is manipulated by the rich and the politicians, this leads to severe social problems and widens the gap between rich and poor. Therefore I don’t believe that higher buildings can improve Bengalis’ life, it could even destroy lives. Those illegal buildings in danger just haven’t caused problems yet, and it seems that utilizing more labour to build higher buildings can decrease the unemployment rate temporarily. However, if the government does not keep an eye on the building safety, sooner or later the tragedy like Savar building would happen continuously.
    In terms of the garment industry, it has provided more chances for people to make a living. But even Bangladeshi work in the hardest working phase of the whole garment manufacturing circle, they earn the least money from the entire economic value-chain. The biggest profit is still controlled by the conglomerate in western countries. For the long-term development, it is necessary for all developing countries to make innovation and to have their own world-famous brands.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I enjoyed reading through the arguments, with the problem of scandal bypassed everything that should be gone through. It happened to most of developing countries I believed, where money is everything and everyone is looking for easy money. However, how do you define your statement stated that the building engineers and developer of the building have been involved in scandal and corruption?Was there any supported investigation on this and proven that it was a corruption?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great article! I believe exploitation is a very big crime. The rights of workers should be respected irrespective of geographical location or race! Moreover, it is in the code of conduct of such big multinational companies and organizations to respect human rights, labour laws and protect the environment! Demand for cheaper garments should only come second to the welfare of the workers.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The collapse of savar’s building is merely an result of its government’s failure of fulfilling its responsibility. People should focus more on rehabilitating or “forming” whatsoever, the integrity, transparency and ethnicity of the “balabala”s government in order to effectively prevent tragidy like this from happening. Reform! Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I do agree that higher building, actually the construction, will improve Bengalis’ life. The development of construction industry will attract investment, provide more opportunities of employment and promote the local economies, but only on the condition that the government, as well as the monitors, must fully respect and guarantee workers’ legitimate rights and interests. That’s should be the key point of this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

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