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Ticking bombs inside Dhaka’s residential buildings

Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, RAJUK, Transparency International Bangladesh, Chemical warehouse in Dhaka

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Ticking bombs inside Dhaka’s residential buildings

According to the complaint, lessee of a RAJUK plot at House no. 23, Road no. 1/A, Sector 5, Uttara, Dhaka has rented out the entire ground floor of the building for using it as warehouse of flammable chemicals. Meanwhile, according to the complaint, tenant of the floor reportedly is also stocking “explosive gel” in the same place. Writes Dr. Abdus Sattar Mia 

High officials sitting on cozy chairs in Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) or those in the ministries concerned as well as top brasses in Bangladesh Police and intelligence agencies seem to have already forgotten the 2010 tragic incidents of Dhaka’s Nimtoli area – which had devastated many houses and business establishments thus taking 123 lives and leaving hundreds with serious burn injuries..

Back in 2020, the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) found that there are some 15,000 chemical warehouses in old Dhaka. After the Churihatta incident, initiatives were taken to shift those, but the initiatives have seen little or no progress. Instead, the number of illegal warehouses of highly-flammable chemicals are on rise, while in the recent years, some senseless owners of residential buildings have rented out portions of their building to such chemical warehouses, just because they get higher rent.

Dhaka city saw 2,397, 1,977 and 2,953 fire incidents in 2014, 2015, and 2016 respectively with its old part seeing more fire disasters, the study finds.

In 2018 only, there were 468 fire incidents in Lalbagh, Hazaribagh, Sadarghat and Siddikbazar of old Dhaka.

Probe committees and task forces were formed after those incidents, but a serious lacking was found in following the recommendations made by those committees.

In 2017, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) announced, they would not issue any license to chemical factories in Old Dhaka that use flammable materials. But it did not take any necessary steps in removing illegal warehouses of flammable chemicals in a number of buildings at Nabab Katra, Bangshal, Siddique Bazar, Sat Rowza, Babu Bazar, Lalbagh, Agamasi Lane and Armanitola.

According to media reports, on March 9, 2021, an individual filed a complaint with the secretaries of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Housing and Public Works, along with Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) giving details description of a warehouse of highly flammable chemicals and “explosive gel” in a residential building at Uttara residential area.

According to the complaint, lessee of a RAJUK plot at House no. 23, Road no. 1/A, Sector 5, Uttara has rented out the entire ground floor of the building for using it as warehouse of flammable chemicals. Meanwhile, according to the complaint, tenant of the floor reportedly is also stocking “explosive gel” in the same place. It was also learnt, RAJUK’s mobile court went for eviction drive at the same premises on March 7, 2021 and returned without evicting the illegal chemical warehouse as well as a number of illegal floors the house owner had built without approval from the competent authorities.

If the above incident is true, then certainly it is a matter of grave concern for the neighbors of the mentioned building. The more disturbing fact is – a large number of RAJUK lessees are continuously violating rules by letting their residential buildings used for commercial purposes. Moreover, this particular case of the Uttara house and the alleged highly-flammable chemical and “explosive gel” warehouse in it is a matter of grave concern.

The matter should also have been investigated by the law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as there is allegation of “explosive gel” stored in the building. At the same time, RAJUK and DNCC authorities should not have handled the matter so much reluctantly – as the illegal chemical warehouse can turn into another Nimtoli disaster at any time.

Dr. Abdus Sattar Mia is a retired civil servant

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