19 Kitchen market buildings risky yet in use

Concern over public safety as Dhaka city corporations fail to shift shops to new buildings
Only the bare rods remain as the plasters have fallen off at a building of Karwan Bazar kitchen market in the capital. Four such buildings in the area are labelled by the city corporation as risky, but tens of thousands of people buy and sell goods at these buildings every day. Photo: Palash Khan, Dipan Nandy

If you take a look at the Rayer Bazar Dhaka City Corporation Market, you will see that the age-old building is on the verge of falling apart.

The structure was labelled risky by the city corporation 16 years ago, but the kitchen market is still there. And thousands of people buy and sell goods there every day, putting their lives in danger.

Over the last two decades, a total of 19 kitchen market buildings were identified as risky in the capital. But millions of people still frequent those.

"I have no choice. I have to run my business. I know that I could get killed if the building caves in. Had the government offered us an alternative, we would have moved out," said grocery store owner Rashim Mia.

Shariatullah, a private employee, who buys his essentials from the market, said, "It looks like the city corporation cannot do more than just label the building as risky and put up signboards. They are not bothered to do anything else."

Abdul Jalil, general secretary of the association of the shop owners at the market, said Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) continues to issue and renew trade licences for the shops housed in the building.

"We have met the current and previous mayors several times and told them that we want a new building. But we have yet to get any response."

Contacted, Selim Reza, chief executive officer at the DNCC, said, "We are looking for a place to relocate the Rayer Bazar market. The current building will be demolished. These shop owners will get shops in the new building. We cannot instantly demolish such a market because the shop owners will have nowhere to go."

Of the kitchen markets identified as risky, nine are under the DNCC and 10 under Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).

Rayerbazar kitchen market is also in a sorry state. Photo: Palash Khan, Dipan Nandy

DSCC Spokesperson Abu Naser said, "We have started renovating three of the risky markets. We will soon start working on the rest."

DSCC Chief Property Officer Russell Sabrin said the corporation was in the process of auctioning off some of the buildings. "Once it's done, they will be demolished."

DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam said the four kitchen markets in Karwan Bazar will be demolished in phases and replaced by new buildings.

The current buildings are in such a poor state that only the bare rods remain at places on the first floor. Steel pipes have been placed by shopkeepers so that the roofs don't cave in.


Between March 9, 2020, and March 22, 2022, the local and technical committees of the DSCC declared a total of 46 buildings, including 10 markets, as risky.

At Nawab Yusuf Market in Babubazar, the roofs of the seven two-storey buildings have partially fallen off while the railings of some of the staircases are gone.

The DSCC's danger sign was not seen in any of these buildings during a recent visit. Many fear that they may collapse and cause loss of lives.

There are 730 shops at the market where thousands of people go every day.

Mohammad Ali, general secretary of Nawab Yusuf Market Business Association, said, "We were not informed that this market was labelled risky. We were not given letters. The city corporation is issuing new trade licences and collecting rents."

Adil Mohammed Khan, a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Jahangirnagar University, said, "Once the city corporation labels a building as risky, it should be evacuated and demolished immediately to avert the risk of the loss of many lives."

Asked, Mayor Atiqul Islam said, "We warned the shopkeepers several times. We don't collect rent from them. The corporation doesn't get any revenue from those markets."

He added that there are legal barriers to demolishing some of the risky market buildings.

"I cannot avoid the responsibility as a mayor," he admitted.