• Wednesday, Feb 26, 2020
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Taskforce to remove chemical depots from Old Dhaka starting Thursday

  • Published at 11:33 pm February 25th, 2019
The devastating fire at Haji Wahed Mansion was started by large quantities of flammable chemical materials which was housing in its basement Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Old Dhaka will have only shops, no warehouses, says Dhaka South City Corporation mayor

A two-tier taskforce will begin a month-long drive on Thursday to remove all chemical warehouses from 15 wards in Old Dhaka under Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), says DSCC Mayor, Md Sayeed Khokon.

At an urgent meeting in Nagar Bhaban, held on Monday against the backdrop of the February 20 fire at Chawkbazar, the mayor said that the first tier of the taskforce would comprise of  utility services and law enforcement agencies.

“They will plan the whole process of the drive, and instruct and review the advancement of the outcome.”

The second tier would comprise local representatives, magistrates, officials from various departments and organizations, he said. “This tier will be divided into several groups, and they will enforce and implement the plan on the ground.”

“We have identified 15 wards in Old Dhaka where our work will begin. One field-level group from the task force will cover two or three wards,” he added.

During the drive, Sayeed Khokon ordered, the authorities concerned will immediately cut the utility services — water, gas and electricity — of buildings with warehouses of chemicals and flammable materials and hazardous chemicals.

He promised to free Old Dhaka of such chemical depots during the month-long drive in order to ensure the safety of its citizens.

At the meeting, local businessmen also sought a month to shift all the chemicals to areas outside Dhaka.

“We need time to relocate,” said Abu Mutaleb, president of Bangladesh Plastic Packaging, Roll Manufacturers Owners Association.

The city corporation started a crackdown on Old Dhaka chemical warehouses after a devastating fire killed 67 people and injured scores of others at Nanda Kumar Lane in Chawkbazar’s Churihatta area on February 20.

Earlier, in June 2010, another deadly fire in similar warehouses at Nimtoli left 124 people dead.

Only shops to remain

Mayor Sayeed on Monday also mentioned that the taskforce drive would only remove chemical warehouses from areas of Old Dhaka.

“But we do not want to shift the shops. The shops in those areas will remain,” he said, adding that they were now moving based on a short-term plan.

Although he said that DSCC had medium and long-term plans in this regard, the mayor did not share those plans at the meeting.

Inspector General of Police, Md Javed Patwary, and Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Md Assaduzzaman Mia, both assured that police would do their best to make the taskforce successful.

The meeting was also attended by  top officials of Police, Rapid Action Battalion, Fire Service and Civil Defence, Dhaka Wasa, Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company, Dhaka Power Distribution Company, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), Department of Explosives, other concerned departments and institutions, local public representatives and traders, and leaders of different business bodies.

Decision on Wahed Mansion

Addressing the meeting, DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon also said that they would decide the fate of Haji Wahed Mansion after receiving the probe report.

“If investigation finds the building risky, we will help its owner in demolishing it. But if the building is found safe, then we will help them to rebuild it,” he said.

The multi-storey building at Churihatta was the first one to catch fire on the night of February 20. The flames then spread to several adjacent buildings within minutes.