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No lessons learnt from Churihatta fire

Licenceless chemical business running in full swing

Published : Wednesday, 19 February, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 330
Walid Khan

Even after one year of the Churihatta fire tragedy in Chawkbazar, owners of chemical businesses have not shifted their deadly warehouses anywhere. Moreover, they are operating their businesses using expired trade licences.
The Land Ministry did not handover a piece of land to the Ministry of Industry to build a permanent chemical business zone. However, a temporary chemical warehouse is under construction at Shyampur which is in a preliminary stage of construction.
The families of the Churihatta fire victims have not got any compensation from the
    government except for Tk 20,000 for burial and cremation expenses. Among the 72 deceased, Labour and Employment Ministry have identified 27 victims as workers and decided to give them compensation of Tk 100,000 each.  
Meanwhile, Chawkbazar dwellers have been living a life under constant threat of chemical fire and 45 victims' families are in doubt if they would ever get any financial assistance from the government.
Last year, at 11:00pm on February 20, a massive fire had devastated several multistoried buildings at Nanda Kumar Lane in Chawkbazar's Churihatta area of the Old Dhaka killing at least 80 people and injuring 50 others.
It has been one year since the fire tragedy took place but nothing has changed in the area. Except for Wahed Mansion and House No 18 of Nanda Kumar Lane all the damaged buildings have now been repaired and local business houses have started trading.
Chemical business owners have not shifted any of their chemical warehouses. Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) and local police administration did not take any action against them.
Md Yousuf Ali Sardar, Chief Revenue Officer of RAJUK, said, "We have already stopped issuing any new chemical trade licence and did not renew any of the old ones."
DSCC is not responsible to relocate chemical warehouses from Churihatta, he added.
Acknowledging the problem with the trade licences, Arif Hossain General Secretary of Bangladesh Chemical and Perfume Merchant Association said, "We have already discussed this matter with the Ministry of Industry. They assured us of solving the problem. Now we are waiting to shift our chemical warehouses to Shyampur."
After the fire incident the government took a decision to shift all chemical godowns permanently from the Old Dhaka to Gazipur. Considering the immediate safety of people of the Old Dhaka the government had started a Tk 80 crore Chemical Godown Construction Project, BCIC at Shyampur, where 54 godowns would be built in the open space of the Ujala Match Factory area.
The Shyampur project had started on November 21 in 2019. Visiting the spot this correspondent found the foundation work of the building was at its initial stage.   
Project Director Md Liakat Ali told the Daily Observer that Prime Minister Shekh Hasina has given priority to the project.
"Affiliated organizations are continuously monitoring the progress of the construction. We are working in full force to complete the project by September 21 this year," he added.
Mohammed Mafizul Haque, Additional Secretary of BSCIC said, "After the fire tragedy on February 20 last year, the government had decided to relocate chemical factories and warehouses permanently to Munshiganj and establish a separate industrial park for the chemical industries. But the Land Ministry still did not handover to us 310 acres of land at Munshiganj."
About Shyampur project Mafizul Haque said the project is going on. "We hope we will be able to complete the project within July this year," he added.
Additional Secretary of Labour and Employment Ministry Md Rezaul Haque said, "We have faced some problems in identifying the heirs of the victims. We have sorted out the problem, and now it's a matter of time to disburse compensation to the victim's family," he added.
He said, "We have received consent from the Prime Minister's Office and finalized the list of the deceased workers who died at Churihattra last year."  
He pointed out that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wants to disburse the compensation money formally at a ceremony.

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