The government crackdown on illegal chemical warehouses in Old Dhaka has already invited severe backlash and protests by local traders as drives against these establishments—prompted by the deadly Chawkbazar fire last month—have continued. A report published in this daily on Monday revealed the extent to which a section of traders are willing to go to put a halt to the drives. During one such drive, a government team was confined to a room for about two hours and a car was vandalised.
This kind of reaction definitely makes the job of the taskforces tougher but drives against the large number of illegal chemical warehouses in Old Dhaka must not stop. This is a litmus test for the government and it cannot cave in to pressure from these traders, most of whom are operating illegally, as they have had enough time to relocate to other areas. Responsibility does not simply lie with the government to ensure that residential areas are free of chemical hazards, but the onus also lies with ordinary citizens to adhere to laws and regulations that bar commercial organisations from being housed in residential buildings. Thus we believe the demand of some owners and traders of illegal establishments in the area that “more time” be given to them is simply unacceptable. Too many lives have had to bear the risk of chemical factories for far too long.
We appreciate that the home minister and DSCC mayor have taken a tough stance on this issue and have adopted a zero-tolerance policy on the existence of these illegal establishments. And we hope that these drives overcome the power of the longstanding nexus between traders and some sections of the local administration which has silently allowed chemical factories to operate in residential areas for years.