News / Asia

Bangladesh Building Disaster Spotlights Safety

A police officer shows the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building to locals in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka, April 26, 2013.
A police officer shows the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building to locals in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka, April 26, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
In the wake of a building collapse which killed some 300 workers in Bangladesh, concerns have revived whether global clothing brands are doing enough to improve dismal safety standards in the country’s most thriving industry. As the death toll continues to climb, it is being counted as among the worst industrial disasters.    
 
When an eight-story factory in a Dhaka suburb turned into a pile of rubble and twisted metal, killing and injuring hundreds of workers, the country was anguished, but not surprised.
 
Flouting of safety norms in the country’s humming garment factories has been a top concern after a devastating blaze in a factory killed more than 100 people in November.
 
In the case of the Rana Plaza building collapse Wednesday, large cracks appeared a day before the disaster. A bank and a market housed in the complex decided to close and send employees home, but several garment workshops ignored the danger.    
 
  • A man walks at the site where a garment factory building collapsed on April 24 in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 13, 2013.
  • Reshma Begum, center, the 19-year-old seamstress who spent 17 days trapped in the rubble of a collapsed factory building talks to the media at a hospital in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 13, 2013.
  • Rescuers carry a survivor pulled out from the rubble of a building that collapsed in Saver, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 10, 2013.
  • People work in the rubble of a collapsed garment factory in Savar near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 10, 2013.
  • Rescuers carry the body of a victim from the rubble of a building that collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh, May 7, 2013.
  • A woman cries after she identified her relative's body that was recovered from the rubble of a collapsed garment factory building, Savar, Bangladesh, May 3, 2013.
  • The remaining standing part of the collapsed Rana Plaza building collapses during a rescue operation by the army in Savar, Bangladesh, May 2, 2013.
  • Relatives mourn as they look for garment workers, missing after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, May 2, 2013.
  • Workers dig mass graves during a burial of unidentified garment workers, who died in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, May 1, 2013.
  • A boy covers his nose with a cloth as people gather in front of mass graves during the burial of unidentified garment workers, who died in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, May 1, 2013.
  • A woman waits for news of her relative, a garment worker, who is missing after the collapse of Rana Plaza building, in front of missing people posters in Savar, Bangladesh, April 30, 2013.
  • Firefighters and army personnel are blanketed in thick dust after part of the garment factory building collapses after being dislodged as part of the clearing process in Savar, near Dhaka, April 29, 2013.
  • Crowds gather at the collapsed Rana Plaza building as people rescue garment workers trapped in the rubble, Savar, Bangladesh, April 24, 2013.

Economist Mamun Rashid in Dhaka says part of the problem has been the rapid expansion of the garment industry in Bangladesh.
 
A decade ago, it was largely a home-based industry. Now businessmen are moving to wherever they can find space to meet the huge flow of orders from Western clothing retailers. In the process, says Rashid, standards have often been compromised.    
 
"This has grown in a kind of unplanned or semi planned way so fast that possibly entrepreneurs could not look at safety standard compliance on a 100 percent basis," said Rashid. "There are of course government approvals and monitoring disconnects happening. There are lack of industry inspectors or factory inspectors and issues with regard to factory standards, building standards and workers safety within the plant."
 
Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said the building which collapsed had violated construction codes. One example: the eight story-structure only had permission for five stories. Questions are being raised as to why inspectors did not notice this earlier and shut it down, especially after cracks appeared.
 
Global retailers responsability

Labor activist groups in Bangladesh and abroad say global retailers must share the burden of improving unsafe conditions in their suppliers. Labor groups have been lobbying for two years with Western companies to sign onto an agreement that would involve independent inspections, structural upgrades and fire safety systems in the country’s garment factories.
 
Only two companies (PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and Tchibo, a German retailer), have endorsed it so far, but they also want other companies to come on board first.  
 
A spokesman for Europe based Clean Clothes Campaign, Ineke Zeldenrust, says their warnings to Western retailers have gone unheeded.  
 
"What we see the corporations doing is all now starting to pay lip service to this unrest by proposing maybe cosmetic changes where they will add a bit of worker training, they will maybe do a little bit of improved audit, but they are not willing to make the fundamental changes in their sources practices and in the way they do their business," said Zeldenrust. "We really believe that after what has happened now, how can they close their eyes? It is very important that buyers commit to paying the kind of prices that will enable repairs to be made."
 
Need to improve infrastructure

Analysts admit that the cutthroat garment industry competition that has made Bangladesh the world’s second biggest supplier for global clothing chains means margins are thin. That can leave factory owners with little capital to invest in improving infrastructure.
 
Shafiul Mohiudeen Islam is the former president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Association. The lobbying group for the industry had warned the owners of the collapsed factory not to operate, but apparently no one enforced the warning.
 
He says that although improving safety conditions is a priority, it can be difficult because of the enormous economic pressure on small and medium sized garment businesses.      
 
"Here everything is cost, everything is cost," said Islam. "You dont have choice. It is the buyers market. End of the day all the superstores and retail chains they are dominating the price. Price is not dominated by manufacturers.”
 
Unsafe conditions in the $20 billion industry are not the only concern. Wages as low as $37 a month for four million workers have also triggered unrest in an industry growing so quickly that some believe it could eventually overtake world-leader China.        
 
 




You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Andres from: Colombia
April 26, 2013 9:52 AM
Okay that globalization person allowed access to the working lives of emerging and poor countries, but this does not work degradation in subhuman conditions that threaten their safety in all aspects.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid