One Month of Chawkbazar Tragedy

Hazardous goods yet to be removed

Mahabub Alam

23 March, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Many businessmen dealing in inflammable chemicals have not yet shifted their warehouses from Old Dhaka’s Chawkbazar area, which experienced a devasting fire a month ago, despite the repeated instructions, warnings and drives by the authorities.

Residents of Chawkbazar told the daily sun that some businessmen have relocated their warehouses to areas surrounding Chawkbazar and some others to Kadamtali of Keraniganj. 

But, they said, many traders are not making any efforts to relocate their warehouses expecting that attention of the authorities and the people will shift from the chemical warehouse-shifting issue with the passage of time and they can keep their establishments there.

Ahsan Ullah, a Chawkbazar resident, told the daily sun that the businessmen who are transferring their warehouses to nearby areas have a plan to shift to them again to the previous location in suitable time in future.

A Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) said employee said no sooner had the authorities disconnected utility lines a chemical warehouse, the owner applied for reconnections.

“This practice has long been continuing here in Chawkbazar,” he said requesting anonymity.

After the fire in Chawkbazar on February 22 that killed at least 71 people, the DSCC authorities have so far snapped the utility connections of at least 159 chemical warehouses to force the owners to shift them immediately.

The DSCC employee said the relevant authorities have already permitted reconnection of the utility lines -- water, gas and electricity -- to 18 godowns. 

Many other applications seeking reconnection of their utility lines are pending with the authorities.

On February 25, the DSCC formed a two-tier task force to conduct a month-long drive for removal of all chemical warehouses from 15 wards in the old part of the city. The drives started on February 28.

Air Commodore Md Zahid Hossain, Chief Waste Management Officer of DSCC, also member of the task force, told the daily sun that five teams are working to remove the chemical goods from the warehouses in Chawkbazar.

The officer, who is leading one of the teams, said he found two warehouses of inflammable substances recently and asked the owners to shift their goods from Old Dhaka.

Asked about relocation of the warehouses to areas surrounding Chawkbazar, the officer said he is unaware of it.

The house owners of the Old Dhaka or of any densely populated areas in the capital should be highly cautious before renting their houses to the tenants, the officer suggested.

They should enquire about the purpose of the tenants whether they will store hazardous goods or not in their rented houses, he also advised.

According to environmentalist groups, a section of businessmen are operating over 2,000 chemical factories and warehouses in Old Dhaka illegally.

Earlier on February 20, at least 70 people were killed in a devastating fire incident at Churihatra in Chawkbazar. The fire was caused by chemical goods.

In June 3, 2010 another fire incident ignited from chemical goods killed at least 124 people at Nimtali, a place not far away from Churihatra of Chawkbazar.