When will Old Dhaka be rid of fires?
Three years ago, after the tragic fire incident at Churihatta in Old Dhaka's Chawkbazar, the industries ministry started building a cluster of chemical warehouses at the site of Ujala Match Factory in Shyampur, with an aim to relocate the warehouses in Old Dhaka.
Even after such a long period, construction is still ongoing. It will take another five to six months to finish all works, officials said.
On top of that, no one can say for sure when Old Dhaka's warehouses will be relocated once construction is completed.
Bangladesh Chemical and Perfumery Merchants Association complained that the industries ministry has not yet determined how many and which warehouses will be relocated, and how the transfer process will start after construction is finished.
Statements of ministry officials do not support their actual work; their work is going on at a snail's pace, it said.
There are over 1,500 chemical shops and warehouses in Old Dhaka. Meanwhile, the industries ministry has taken up a project to build 54 chemical warehouses on 6.17 acres of land in Shyampur.
Till now, construction of the infrastructure has not been completed. At the rate they are working, this transfer process will take a long time. But we are hopeful of shifting the shops and warehouses soon.
Discussions about moving chemical warehouses out of Old Dhaka have been going on for decades, but the process is yet to start. And so, lives are being lost in fires caused by these shops and warehouses, located in residential buildings.
Dhaka district administration would implement the relocation after the new warehouses are ready.
According to sources in the industries ministry, Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) owns Ujala Match Factory. This factory was closed for a long time, and as a result, truck stands were built there illegally.
After the Churihatta fire, the ministry took the project to temporarily build 54 warehouses at the factory site, at a cost of around Tk 79.41 crore. Construction started on November 9, 2019, and the project was scheduled to be completed on September 21, 2020.
The factory stands on 6.17 acres of land adjacent to Shyampur Bazar. Now, it is surrounded by tin sheets. "Project for building a warehouse for storage of chemicals on a temporary basis" is written on the main gate.
President of Bangladesh Chemical and Perfumery Merchants Association Nurul Mostafa Khoka said, "Till now, construction of the infrastructure has not been completed. At the rate they are working, this transfer process will take a long time. But we are hopeful of shifting the shops and warehouses soon."
Shah Md Imdadul Haque, chairperson of BCIC, said, "Due to various problems, the speed of work has slowed down for more than a year. As a result, it was not possible to complete the project on time. We hope that the rest of the work will be completed within the next four-five months."
Contacted, State Minister for Industries Kamal Ahmed Majumdar said, "Dhaka district administration will implement the transfer of warehouses after works are finished."
Meanwhile at an event on August 16, Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh said the relocation process is ongoing. "We have come to know that the process of relocating around 500 warehouses to Shyampur industrial area has been taken up, and it will be implemented within this year."
"We will not be free from fire accidents until these warehouses are completely relocated," he said.