A roundtable organised by The Daily Star titled “Chawkbazar Tragedy: Way Forward” on February 26 brought together experts, chemical importers and traders, and other stakeholders to discuss the imperatives in the aftermath of the Chawkbazar fire. Among other things, two very important aspects that emerged very loud and clear from the discussions are the need to implement the 17 recommendations by the committee set up in the aftermath of the Nimtoli fire—the first and foremost of which is to relocate the chemical stocks from old town.
But an important corollary to that was to first grade the chemicals according to their combustibility and prioritise relocation accordingly. In the rush to move out these materials out of Old Dhaka, there is a risk that these dangerous chemicals may be scattered all over the city. Thus, the need to earmark areas keeping the safety factor in mind. The authorities should close down all unauthorised establishments and their stocks of chemicals should be impounded because enough time has been wasted and the lives of too many people have been lost.
Given that there are many departments involved in the import of chemicals, forming a national taskforce on fire safety is the need of the hour. Dhaka's land must be zoned so that there is no prospect of storing industrial-grade chemicals in residential areas and Rajuk needs to play its role in ensuring that building codes are followed. All these require political will because there is a need to put people's safety above and beyond profit and the greed of unscrupulous business interests.