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Dhaka Tribune

OP-ED: We do not want a chemical disaster in Bangladesh

What happened in Beirut should make us extremely cautious


Update : 21 Aug 2020, 07:50 PM

Port authorities around the world have been shaken by the horrific blast in Beirut, Lebanon. Bangladesh is no exception. 

The port of Chittagong -- obtained from various sources -- contains chemical products imported about 26 years ago. 

There is a lot of speculation as to why or for what reason these chemical products are still stored. 

However, Chittagong port authorities have been alerted after the blast in Beirut, Lebanon. It is a matter of relief that their good judgment has emerged in this matter. 

Now is the time to remove these explosive chemicals from the port and deactivate them. 

The explosion in Beirut is nothing less than the explosion of a powerful bomb. We do not want such an explosion in Chittagong city.

Coincidentally, a fire broke out in a shed at Chittagong port not too long ago. This shows how dangerous a situation we are in. 

We also learned that there are 13 drums and 55 pallets of dangerous chemical products in the 30,365 square feet shed, and the electrical lines of this “P shed” are very old. 

If there is an electrical short circuit for any reason, a fatal accident can happen. 

So, we hope that these issues will come to the notice of the authorities very soon. Apart from Chittagong, chemical products are scattered throughout different parts of the country. 

These have to be deposited in the specified place very quickly. Or they are almost always a threat to us. 

At the risk of saying what many people already know, here are a few basic steps:

First, officials under the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change should identify most of the explosive chemicals still in use.

Second, a handling protocol should be prepared based on field observations of current practice. 

This can limit how much to save, how to save, and how long to save. 

We know that over time, the chemicals in warehouses can be forgotten until they are killed.

Third, the protocol needs to be promoted innovatively, both at the grassroots level and in local administration.

 Capacity building is essential -- how should people measure, manage, and monitor? What should a trader in the chemical market know, for example? 

And, of course, registry systems should be made more robust, and easier to use. These are just the basics. 

We have to roll many more of these out before we get caught in a chemical disaster. 

Md Jamal Mriddad Rafi is a freelance contributor.

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