The ghosts of Nimtoli
Seven years have elapsed since a deadly fire ripped through Old Dhaka's Nimtoli that claimed the lives of 124, mostly women and children, and injured a further 200. It ripped apart families and for many the horrors never went away. Yet, not much has changed for other old Dhaka residents who still live in the midst of highly flammable chemicals, most of which are stocked in different areas of Lalbagh, Bangshal, Armanitrola, Moulavibazar, etc. After the tragedy, authorities had promised to free old Dhaka from chemical hazards that storage of such chemicals pose, but nothing much has happened. The Dhaka South City Corporation was supposed to launch a drive on March 1 but this was postponed for apparent lack of police support.
We wonder whatever happened to the commerce ministry's announcement made in June 2010 about the creation of a "chemical village" in Keraniganj. The ministry was supposed to acquire land and set up the physical infrastructure for the storage of hazardous chemicals. That never took place and so the hundreds of thousands of people crammed up in the various localities of old town live with the prospect of another Nimtoli-type incident happening any day.
In a country where the principal accused of the Nimtoli tragedy never got arrested, we ought not to be surprised about this clear and present danger to public health and government inaction. With little in way of safe storage and handling, an accident may happen anytime, anywhere. With so little value placed on public health and safety, the Nimtoli incident remains a footnote in a series of accidents that have never been addressed and the government bears the responsibility of this gross negligence.