April 14, 2024, 9:15 pm

Nightmare haunts city dwellers even after 2 years

  • Update Time : Friday, March 5, 2021
  • 315 Time View

Chemical warehouses are yet to remove

Special Correspondent:

With the onset of summer season, the panic over devastating fire has started haunting the city dwellers again as the chemical warehouses are yet to remove from the Old Dhaka even after exceeding two years of Churihatta fire tragedy.

Not only that, there is no progress of the case filed in connection with the fire incident as well as the pledges of compensation made for the deceased and injured are yet to implement.

At least 78 people including women, children and elderly men were killed in a devastating fire broke out at Chakbazar Churihatta in Old Dhaka on February 20 in 2019. The fire engulfed surrounding areas in a while and went out of control due to prevailed chemical warehouses in the area. The devastating fire claimed the lives of 78 people and injured several hundreds.

Earlier on June 03 in 2010, such a devastating fire that broke out at Nimtoli area claimed the lives of 120 people.

Though, the tragic incidents drew the attention of the nation, authorities concerned could not come out from their usual pledges or commitments.

Experts said, the authorities concerned should have taken lesson from the tragic fire incidents.

Though, the then Mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Sayeed Khokon pledged to shift the warehouses to Keraniganj area for the sake of city dwellers, the commitment is yet to implement. A few warehouses were shifted after the incidents due to drives of mobile court, large number of the warehouses have remained in the same location later due to inactiveness of the authorities concerned. In addition, new more warehouses, plastic and perfume factories have been established in the area putting the local dwellers at high risk.

Environmental activist Abu Naser Khan said, “There are thousands of warehouses, factories and shops of chemicals in old Dhaka. But, most of them do not have any documents including registration or license. These businessmen and the local people, who support them, have a vote bank. City Corporation authorities cannot take drastic action against the chemical traders due to their political influence. The fire service, police or the Environment Department cannot take any initiative against them. The City Corporation, which is responsible for providing licenses or oversees these, cannot work properly.

Locals said, most of the landlords in these areas are dependent on rent. There are many building owners who have built buildings with advance rent money and bank loans. Since there is no other source of income, they rent these buildings as warehouses or factories. Even if those factories or warehouses are of combustible material, they are indifferent about it. Again, the ward commissioners and the people’s representatives cannot pressure the locals to remove the chemical godowns from a political point of view.

On the other hand, the city corporation, fire service and other concerned organizations are also pretending not to see these irregularities for mysterious reasons.

Besides, the locals are the first obstacle in any initiative to remove the chemical warehouses in the area. So, not a single warehouse could be moved after two major fires in the last 12 years. However, according to the local conscious community, everything is possible if the government is strict. In this case, local people’s representatives need to be involved.

Meanwhile, a writ petition was filed in the High Court seeking compensation of Tk 30 lakh to the victims and their families after the horrific fire in Chawkbazar. But there was no solution. After the fire incident, the families of the victims were given only Tk 20,000 for burial. After that they did not get any more money. Many of the deceased were the sole breadwinners of the family. Many of such families could not stay in Dhaka and moved to the villages, locals said.

On the other hand, no action has been taken against those responsible for the fire. Hasan and Sohail alias Shahid, the two sons of the owner of the building from which the fire started, are out on bail. The date of the investigation report of the case filed in this connection is being postponed again and again.

Police said that, the addresses of the other owners of the godown could not be ascertained and they have not yet been brought under the law.

Professor AKM Shahnawaz of Jahangirnagar University has done research on old Dhaka. According to him, as of 2001, Old Dhaka has a population of about 80,000 people per square kilometer. Almost every building here has a chemical factory, warehouse or any other type of business establishment. He expressed the fear of another major accident, if the chemical warehouses are not removed from the old Dhaka, which is at risk of major fires at any moment.


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