The initiative to relocate 70% of the shops from Dhaka’s Karwan Bazar kitchen market to Aminbazar, Mohakhali and Jatrabari areas saw another failed deadline this December as construction of the alternative kitchen markets is still under process.
More than a decade has passed since the project’s inception in 2006, but different issues over the years amounted to the eventual delay of its realisation.
According to Dhaka North City Corporation sources, legal complexity in acquisition of lands for the alternative markets, irregularities and corruption of few officials during the absence of public representatives in the city corporations until the polls in 2015, fund crunch and lack of monitoring are some of the main reasons for the project’s drawback.
However, DNCC chief engineer Brigadier General Md Abul Khair had denied the allegations of corruption few years back when this reporter had asked questions regarding the delay. He claimed that they were unable to complete the project in time due to lack of sufficient fund, legal complexities and revising of budget for increase in construction material costs and higher land acquisition prices.
The sources also said the failed talks with wholesalers and retailers to make them agree to relocate were also one of the reasons for the long delay.
In March this year, DNCC and the business owners finally came to a consensus and signed an agreement to shift all businesses within six months from the agreement.
On April 20, DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq told the Dhaka Tribune that approximately 17 the of 23 bighas of area that the kitchen market occupies will be freed within December 31, and all the remaining shops in would be cleared out by April 2017.
On May 2, talking to reporters during a visit to Karwan Bazar’s burnt-down Hasina Market, the mayor said all the shops would be shifted within a few months. However, when contacted on September 29, Annisul told the Dhaka Tribune that the shifting of shops to the alternative kitchen markets would likely start in November.
As November has passed and December is about to end, the project saw no substantial progress.
When contacted yesterday, Annisul Huq told the Dhaka Tribune: “The construction of the three alternative kitchen markets is almost complete. We are now completing the formalities with the government’s Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) and reconstructing few infrastructures.”
“A new road near the Aminbazar kitchen market is under construction as per the new proposal of the traders. So it is taking some additional time.” he added.
However, when asked about any new deadline, the mayor did not make any comment.
The Karwan Bazar kitchen market – largest in the country – occupies around 23 bighas, or around 7.6 acres, of area and is surrounded by offices of many government and private organisations.
Annisul said the vacated area will be used for a new project which includes a shopping mall and a recreation area.
However, seeking anonymity a DNCC official told this reporter that the city corporation is planning to construct world class media centres in Karwan Bazar.
Md Omar Faruq, general secretary of Karwan Bazar Wholesale Kitchen Market Traders’ Association, said they were ready to shift around 1,789 shops and the process will start very soon.
He said in the latest proposal they had recommended the DNCC to allocate 400 square-feet instead of 100 to each wholesaler, which might be one the reasons for delay.
In 2006, the last caretaker government initiated the project to relocate the wholesale and retail kitchen shops of of Karwan Bazar.
The Ecnec then approved a Tk206 crore project in October 4, 2006 to construct the alternative markets by June, 2010.
Project officials said the former DCC had sent a revised development project proposal in July 2008 to the Planning Commission for fund shortage. The commission then asked the city corporation to stop construction of the Mohakhali kitchen market and suggested to shift it to Tongi.
However, the Planning Commission gave its approval for the three kitchen markets and asked that additional money be ensured by the LGRD Ministry and in 2008 the construction cost which was estimated according to the market rate of 2006 also rose from Tk206 crore to Tk314 crore.
After failing the 2010 deadline, the project received an extension until June 2015 and the budget was again revised to around Tk350 crore.
Meanwhile, after the bifurcation of the DCC into Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) in 2012, the project went to the DNCC, although one of the new locations – Jatrabari – falls under DSCC jurisdiction.