Chawkbazar Fire: Drive barred again | Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 04, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:14 AM, March 04, 2019

Drive barred again

Chemical traders confine govt team for 2 hours, vandalise car; operation resumes on police intervention

For the second consecutive day, a section of Old Dhaka traders created obstacles to the drive against illegal chemical warehouses yesterday.

They even confined the government team conducting the drive to a house for around two hours and vandalised the car of an executive engineer of Dhaka Power Distribution Company.

However, the operation resumed following police intervention and the utility lines of a building at Killarmor were disconnected as it housed five plastic factories and a warehouse of plastic materials.

As the team went to the five-storey building around 12:30pm, the traders started protesting angrily and demanded the ongoing government crackdown be stopped.

The team members locked the main gate from inside sensing trouble, said Saiful Ashraf, assistant director of the Department of Environment.

He said they were confined to the house till around 2:30pm and could come out only after the officer in-charge of local police station and local councillor came to the spot to ease the situation.

The team, led by air commodore Md Zahid Hossain, chief waste management officer of the DSCC, continued its drive and raided two more warehouses afterwards.

The agitating traders demanded the government take action only against those establishments that store 29 “dangerous chemicals” listed by the authorities. They also sought time to shift their warehouses and factories.

Subarna Shirin, assistant commissioner and executive magistrate of the Office of Dhaka Deputy Commissioner, said the drive will be resumed tomorrow (today). 

Meanwhile, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal after a meeting at the ministry attended by top law enforcement officials expressed firm stance on relocating chemical warehouses from old Dhaka.

"All chemical warehoused in Old Dhaka must be removed despite all barriers," he told reporters yesterday.

Replying to a question about the deadly Chawkbazar blaze, the minister said the probe report is almost ready and it will be released within the shortest possible time.

At least 71 people were killed and scores injured in a chemical-fed fire in Churihatta of Chawkbazar on February 20, prompting the government to act against chemical factories and warehouses in the old town.

On February 25, Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokon announced that a month-long crackdown would be launched against warehouses of “dangerous chemicals”.

The taskforce comprising officials of 14 government agencies started the work on Thursday by snapping utility lines of 21 such establishments in Shaheednagar and Islambagh.

A team of the taskforce was forced to suspend its operation in the face of angry protests from local traders in Bakshibazar on Saturday, the second day of the crackdown.

The drive resumed after around two hours following direct intervention of Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokon. Another team, however, carried out its operation in Shaheednagar area without hindrance.

Two more teams of the taskforce disconnected utility connections of eight warehouses on Agasadeque Road, Asgar Road and Nanda Kumar Lane yesterday.

However, utility connections to four buildings were restored as the warehouses from the houses were relocated. They were snapped in previous drives.

A team led by Brig Gen Sharif Ahmed, chief health officer of the DSCC, started the drive on Nanda Kumar Lane in Churihatta around 11:45am.

They first disconnected utility lines of three buildings on Asgar Lane and Nanda Kumar Lane for illegally storing plastic raw materials and running a factory without the DoE permission.

Sharif said they will continue their drive and urged traders to shift their warehouses and factories of flammable items to other places.

Another team disconnected utility lines of five more warehouses on Agasadeque Road for keeping flammable items. 

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