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Ministries Failed To Execute PM’s Order In More Than 9 Years Following Nimtali Fire

Let army be given charge to relocate chemical trade

Published : Wednesday, 27 February, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 2979
Observer Special

Last week's Chawkbazar inferno that burnt alive 69 once again proved that the cumulative result and outcome of failures, inefficiency, negligence and corruption of the concerned government Ministries and authorities lead to recurrence of human tragedies. The Chawkbazar blaze that caused the deaths coupled with destruction of properties and chemicals worth crores of take could have been averted had the concerned authorities acted upon the Prime Minister's instructions right after the Nimtali tragedy nine years back on June 3, 2010 that killed 124 and maimed hundreds.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked relevant authorities to take initiatives to relocate the warehouses and factories of flammable chemical products following the Nimtali tragedy. But due to concerned authorities' evident indolence and inaction the PM's order was not implemented even in 9 years. The Nimtali tragedy failed to act as a wake up call for them.

The High Court also in its observation on Monday termed the Chawkbazar tragedy a "result of negligence." The court blamed the concerned authorities for not implementing the recommendations of the 2010 CID probe committee on the Nimtali fire. "The incident of Chawkbazar fire can not be termed merely as an accident somebody has to take the responsibility for it," the High Court asserted.

Following the Nimtali fire in old Dhaka the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) submitted a 17-point recommendations. The HC on June 10, 2010 issued a rule on Nimtali tragedy and asked the probe committee to submit its report within three months. But the concerned authorities did not respond to the court's rule, the HC on Monday observed.

The government wanted to construct ultra modern warehouses with all facilities on a 50 acre area in Keraniganj at the outskirt of the capital city for preserving chemicals after the Nimtali incident. Tk 201 crore was allocated to relocate around 1000 chemical concerns to the new facility. But the opposition and resistance of the chemical business men, building owners and residents of the area frustrated the government move.

If the responsible authorities fail to implement the PM's order and HC's instructions will the government sit idle and allow recurrence of tragedies? In the wake of failures of concerned Ministries and authorities many now feel that the task of relocating the chemical businesses from Old Dhaka should be given to army.

Not only shifting of chemical warehouses and factories, it is necessary to undertake a mega project for rebuilding Old Dhaka making it live able reducing the risks of devastating accidents, whether it is due to fire, tremor or other natural calamities. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also stressed on this after the Chawkbazar inferno.

According to a report titled "state of cities 2017; Housing in Dhaka" by the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development around 95 per cent of the buildings in Old Dhaka do not have fire exit. The report says fire hazards become more extreme in old part of Dhaka due to high density of buildings, narrow roads, flammable building materials, old water, electric, WASA and gas supply systems and also prevalence of chemical warehouses and factories. There is no easy access to firefighting tools and ambulances.

Those who have been succeeding their ancestral home in Old Dhaka have the right to claim proper compensation to implement the mega project to make the old part of the city livable. But nobody has the right to destroy the livability of an area or to cause human tragedy like Chawkbazar or Nimtali incidents by their criminal negligence to unavoidable risks.

The government has been implementing many billion taka projects with the help of army. Our army has proved as a very disciplined, well organised and experienced authority. Many believe that given the army's success stories on development and construction works, the army has all the potentials to implement PM's instruction and government's plan to relocate and install the chemical warehouses and factories to a new suitable and secured location. The army has proved its efficiency and capability in Hatirjheel and Dhaka Elevated Expressway Projects.

During Monday's hearing the High Court observed that the image of the country is being tarnished due to recurrence of  tragic incidents due to negligence and inefficiency of the authorities who are now blaming each other for their failures. It's time to put an end to recurrence of all avoidable disasters in our country. We as a nation have to act unitedly, honestly and responsibly. It's on this point where political opposition fractions must cut across party line and become a part of a greater approach towards ensuring safety of our citizens.

Crude and detestable political criticism in the wake of a disaster does not contribute to nation building. It's only a dirty and malicious attempt to politicize any tragic incident for petty party political interest. The High Court in its observation during Monday's hearing on the Chawkbazar tragedy said that it is not possible only for the Prime Minister to run the country though she has already done many things for the development of the country and the welfare of the people.

Let the death's in Chawkbazar inferno be a reminder to all of us to be united to help the government to ensure accountability to implement the projects to save life and avoid recurrence of tragedies not only in capital Dhaka but also across the country.

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