From Nimtoli to Chawkbazar: Who is responsible? Where is their accountability?

From Nimtoli to Chawkbazar

Who is responsible? Where is their accountability?

Prothom Alo  Feb 24, 2019

All of a sudden, seventy people died in devastating fire. Bangladesh is in deep shock. At this tragic moment, we recall the fire at Nimtoli that killed 124 people on 3 June 2010. Both the incidents took place in Old Dhaka. Wednesday’s fire of Chawkbazar is a repetition of Nimtoli.

After the fire of Chawkbazar, everyone realises that no lessons were learnt from the Nimtoli incident. No changes took place in Old Dhaka after the Nimtoli incident. Under similar structural conditions, the Nimtoli incident was repeated in Chawkbazar. Was this repetition inevitable? Will we continue the lifestyle of Old Dhaka, risking life in future?

After the Nimtoli incident, it seemed that a lesson was learnt. We planned to do all sorts of things to reduce the risk of fire in the densely populated Old Dhaka. At the directives of the prime minister, a probe committee was formed. After the investigation, the committee came up with 17 recommendations. The repetition of Nimtoli fire might have been avoided in Chawkbazar if the recommendations were implemented properly. Even if the fire broke out, it might not have spread so quickly. The fire could have been doused quickly and so many lives would not have been lost.

Most of the areas in Old Dhaka are densely populated. There is a high risk of fire in those areas where residential buildings, shops, small factories are in a bad shape. Highly flammable chemicals are stored, used and sold in Nimtoli and Chawkbazar in Old Dhaka. Chemical warehouses and factories cause quick spread of fire. After the Nimtoli fire, the experts of the investigation committee recommended that chemicals factories and warehouses be relocates from Old Dhaka.

According to the recommendations, the chemical warehouses have to be relocated on an urgent basis. Eight years have lapsed, but no step was taken to implement this recommendation. After eight years, only a project titled ‘BISIC Chemical Palli’ was taken by the industries ministry last month. Now the question arises as to why so much time was taken to undertake this project. Who is responsible for this? It is necessary to punish those who failed to implement the recommendations.

Another 16 recommendations were given. Different ministries and departments including the industries ministry, the home ministry and the local government ministry were supposed to implement these recommendations. They have all failed to do so. They have to be made accountable for this. If negligence of an individual is identified, he or she has to be brought to book. Otherwise, the inquiry committee formed after the Chawkbazar incident will not yield any results. The industries ministry and Dhaka South City Corporation mayor have pledged to relocate the chemical warehouses. Their pledges will remain mere pledges.

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