Yet again we are surrounded by a horrific fire incident that broke out at Kalyanpur-9 slum on Sunday evening, destroyed at least 200 shanties, leaving hundreds of its residents homeless. This fire incident is indeed a clarion call for our city-planners to revise our existing housing policy, especially with regard to the expansion of slums known for their closely packed housing units.
Fire accidents have become a regular phenomenon in the country, especially in the capital Dhaka. The number of fire incidents has increased more than threefold across Bangladesh since 1997. Frequent fire incidents taking place in the city have exposed the fact that hitherto we have not been able to take required lessons from the previous years’ deadly fire incidents. The fire incidents that are talking place in Dhaka exposes our lack of awareness and the time it takes for the fire service to douse the fire brings to the fore how ill-prepared we are in handling such incidents.
Relevant authorities need to come up with a plan to
inspect the conditions of different slums and ensure
that a repeat of this incident does not occur
Dhaka is becoming more and more vulnerable to man-made hazards due to rapid urbanization. Loss of human life and properties can considerably be reduced if the our entire housing system can be brought under a well-planned strategy. Experts from related arena and different stakeholders who are properly trained should work together under one umbrella to ensure a risk resilient infrastructure system.
For making the cities safer and reducing urban disaster risks, there is no alternative other than building capacity of local government for ensuring effective services in emergency situations. Multi-hazard approaches need to be ensured in policies, regulations and plans to reduce urban risk that will make Dhaka safer in the long-run.
Kalyanpur-9 slum was home to mostly low-wage earners, including rickshaw-pullers, garment workers, housemaids and day labourers. Their loss of homes meant that they are now headed into an uncertain future. Therefore, the government should take immediate measures to rehabilitate them properly. Relevant authorities need to come up with a plan to inspect the conditions of different slums and ensure that a repeat of this incident does not occur. It is time for the government to make its housing policy more reflective of the dangers of such unplanned urbanization as we cannot afford to be callous when it comes to the issue of safety and security.