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Dhaka Tribune

Fire safety of Mirpur buildings in question

  • Old buildings being renovated
  • Rooftop cafes being set up in many buildings
Update : 27 Mar 2024, 03:58 PM

Mirpur has become one of the busiest commercial areas of Dhaka following various development projects, including multiple metro rail stations in the area. New buildings are constantly being built, and old buildings in the area are being renovated and given a new look. A number of old structures and buildings in Mirpur have seen an increased number of visitors since the introduction of the metro rail. 

The markets and restaurants housed within these buildings are often bustling with people. But amid all this, the prime concern of the authorities is the fire risk in the area's buildings. 

Following a recent fire incident at a building in the capital’s Bailey Road area, the weaknesses of the fire safety system of the city’s buildings have come to the fore. 

This reporter has visited several commercial buildings in Mirpur-1, Mirpur-10, Mirpur-11, and Mirpur-12. The visit revealed that none of the buildings had adequate fire safety arrangements. Even though there are fire extinguishers, they will become useless when a moderate fire breaks out at the buildings. 

There are allegations that the building authorities are not following the instructions issued by the Fire Service and Civil Defence in this regard. The buildings look shiny from the outside, but from the inside, they all lack fire safety measures. 

There are a number of shopping complexes in Mirpur-1, including Mirpur Mazar Cooperative Market, Shah Ali Shopping Complex, Muktijoddha Haque Plaza, Muktijoddha Super Market, Mukta Bangla Market, Chhinnamul Shopping Complex, and Bagdad Shopping Complex. Most of the shops in the area sell clothes, and the markets have been built in an unplanned way. 

Muktijoddha Super Market is one of the largest commercial buildings in Mirpur-1. There are three stairs in three corners of the building, which are difficult to find for a new visitor. Two iron-made stairs connect the market with the pavement on two sides. Muktijoddha Punorbashon Bohumukhi Shomobay Shomiti’s Mirpur unit is responsible for managing this building.

The association’s vice president, Mosalin, said: "Previously, we managed to douse some small fires in the building with the existing fire-fighting system. However, there is a plan to demolish the old building and build a new one here.”

The Chhinnamul Shopping Complex in the area is still under construction. The work on this building started about 20 years ago. But due to various reasons, it is not yet complete. As a result, unplanned shops are being rented out in this market. The stairs in this building are very narrow. Shops have also been erected in front of the elevator. They have replaced the escalators with iron stairs.

The management committee of this building claims that it is under construction, and therefore there are some problems here. According to them, all the problems will go away once the building is complete. However, there are questions regarding the sustainability of the building.

Mirpur Mazar Cooperative Market building is currently in very fragile condition. There is not enough light and air passage into the building. The stairs to the upper floors of the building are also quite dangerous. This building is multipurpose, but most shops sell clothes and other garment items. This building is believed to have no fire safety issues.

This reporter talked to the security guards at the markets. They could not give any information about whether there had been any incidents of fire in these markets before.

1

Temporary shops around the markets

There are rows of illegal shops lined up in front of the markets in Mirpur-1 and Mirpur-10. They make the entrances to the markets very narrow. As a result, the shop owners and sellers will have a hard time getting out of the market in case of a fire incident in any of the buildings around the area. Besides, these illegal shops can become an obstacle for the rescue forces as well.

The shop owners said that their business has been badly hampered because of these illegal shops on the pavement. According to them, the law enforcers can solve the problem immediately if they want to. 

Old buildings are renovated 

There are metro rail stations in Mirpur-12, Pallabi, Mirpur-10, and Mirpur-11, which have transformed the socio-economic scenario of the area. Now, there are restaurants and brand shops in all the buildings adjacent to the metro stations in Mirpur. Suddenly, the area is experiencing a high demand for rental space, prompting the renovation of several old buildings. Previously, these buildings served as both residential spaces and garment factories.

Despite the renovation, the basic infrastructure of these buildings remains the same. Also, there are restrictions on the commercial use of these buildings. Recently, authorities conducted raids in the areas to identify buildings that were flouting regulations. As a result, some building owners have shut down their buildings completely. 

Rooftop restaurants and food courts

There are hundreds of rooftop restaurants and food courts in Mirpur. The owners say that they have followed all the rules and regulations in setting up their businesses. However, sources suggest that the building owners have renovated their old buildings and rented out the rooftops for additional gain. 

 3

Negligence of duty by authorities

Urban planners say that the buildings in the city have become death traps due to the negligence of the concerned institutions and officials of the government. They said that due to the attitude of the building owners to make excessive profit and the neglect of the responsibilities of the government agencies, the lives of the common people are in danger. The officials will blame each other when there is an accident and will try to save themselves, the experts said.

Professor Dr Adil Muhammad Khan, president of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP), said: “Just as the building owners and shopkeepers are responsible, the government institutions are also negligent. The fire service ends its duty simply by informing Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) of the situation. At the same time, Rajuk does not regularly keep track of the permits of these building owners for renting out the floors. As a result, accidents are taking place one after another.” 

What does the fire service say?

Md Shahjahan Siraj, station officer of Mirpur Fire Service and Civil Defence Station, said: “We have visited several buildings in Mirpur. We have given notices to buildings that do not have additional stairs or fire extinguishers. We told them what to do in this situation. Beyond that, we have nothing to do. Now if the market or building owners are not careful, then what can we say?”

Stating that the issue of fire safety in old buildings was not ensured at the beginning, he said: “The issue of fire safety should have been looked at when the buildings were constructed. I think they didn't pay so much attention to these things then. However, building owners still have an opportunity to take action on this issue.”

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