National, Back Page

Chemical warehouses yet to be relocated

Published : 19 Apr 2024 10:40 PM | Updated : 20 Apr 2024 12:31 PM
  • t

The chemical warehouses in the residential buildings in Old Dhaka have not yet been moved despite the government’s decision to relocate them following the Nimtoli fire tragedy around 13 years ago.

A total of 124 people died and many injured in an inferno at a chemical warehouse at Nimtoli in 2010, triggering public outcry and demand from different quarters to relocate the chemical warehouses from Old Dhaka. 

After the Nimtoli fire, the government decided to relocate the hazardous chemical stores and and plastic factories from the congested old part of the capital.

Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) undertook a Tk 1,454.80 crore project ‘BSCIC Chemical Industrial Park project’ on 310 acres of land in Sirajdikhan, Munshiganj.

Implementatin of the project was suppsed to completed by June 30, 2022 but it missed the initial deadline. The project is now scheduled to be completed in June 2024.

In the meantime, the government has set up  a site for temporary relocation of the  chemical warehouses to Shyampur before moving them to Sirajdikhan in Munshiganj.

However, only two chemical companies out of nearly 2,000 have agreed to relocate their chemical stores from Old Dhaka to Shyampur. 

Md Yusuf Miah, Publicity Secretary of Bangladesh Chemical & Perfumery Merchant Association, said that BSCIC was seeking rent much higher than normal for moving to the temporary site.

After the Nimtoli fire, the issue or renewal of the trade licence was stopped by the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC). However, the chemical stores are still there. As a result, residents of Old Dhaka fear another Nitmoli tragedy.

These chemical factories or warehouses are regulated by the Ministry of Industry even though traders are doing chemical business in old part of the capital with a trade licence obtained from the DSCC. 

Without removing these warehouses, the DSCC is evading their liability by just stopping the renewal of trade licences. In this way, these warehouses of old Dhaka could not be shifted even today due to the tug-of-war between the ministry and the DSCC.

According to DSCC sources, the corporation cannot take any action despite knowing that traders are doing business there illegally. If so many warehouses are closed together, the traders will suffer. So, the DSCC is not going to evict or close the warehouses. 

Before Eid, DSCC Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh said, “We can’t keep Old Dhaka vulnerable anymore. A fire broke out there a few days ago, and it is happening regularly. In the meantime, the warehouses and factories required for the transfer of chemicals have been made by the Ministry of Industries to the industrial zone in Shyampur. But only one has gone there so far.”

Giving a warning to those who are dealing in chemicals in Old Dhaka, DSCCI Mayor Taposh said according to the law, the traders should apply to the Ministry of Industry and relocate there. Otherwise combing operation will be conducted after Eid.

Taposh said, “We have listed 1924 warehouses and business establishments of chemical dealers there. We have stopped issuing and renewing trade licences for those organisations since 2017. Still, they are doing business there with trade licences from different places.”

“All the chemical warehouses will be closed after Eid by conducting a combing operation. In these buildings, many people use the upper part as a residence, and the lower part is used as a warehouse. It is hazardous. Therefore, those buildings will be sealed off if necessary, and electricity and water lines will be cut off. The city corporation cannot be blamed for the suffering that will occur then.”

Muhammad Hafizur Rahman, Project Director of the BSCIC Chemical Industrial Park project, told The Bangladesh Post that 63 per cent of the physical work on the project has bee done after the completion of the land acquisition. 

He said, “The earth filling and boundary construction were in progress. Hopefully, we will complete the project within June 2024.”

“We will start allocating the plots in July 2024. It will take three to four months. If any work on the project remains, we will complete it within that time,” he added.

Architect Iqbal Habib, Vice-President of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), said it is not the responsibility of the city corporation alone to relocate the chemical warehouses. The authorities concerned with import and export, including the Directorate of Explosives, are also responsible for this. Apart from that, the trend of making quick buck  by landlords is also responsible. The city corporation is collecting extra holding tax from these landlords even if they do not issue trade licences.

“It is possible to free the people of old Dhaka from the risk of fire risk by taking necessary measures, including the formation of a task force to relocate these chemical warehouses” he added.

Related Topics