About seven years into the Nimtoli fire tragedy, the old part of the capital is still at risk of fire accidents because of location of chemical warehouses in many of its residential complexes.
Chemical warehouses and stores, mostly located in residential complexes, are seen aplenty in Armanitola, Shahid Nagar, Islambagh, Chawkbazar, Nabab Katra, Bangshal, Sat Rowza, Siddique Bazar, Babubazar, Agamasi Lane and Mitford areas of Old Dhaka.
Storage of flammable chemicals on the ground floor of a residential building resulted in a devastating chemical inferno at Nimtoli in Old Dhaka on June 3, 2010. As many as, 123 people were killed and 200 others injured in the chemical inferno which caused a public outcry for relocation of the chemical factories from the area.
In April 2011, the government decided to shift all chemical warehouses from residential areas to industrial zones in Keraniganj, on the outskirts of the capital.
The government also selected 20 acres of land in Keraniganj to shift the chemical factories, but the land development work is yet to be started.
Thousands of people in Old Dhaka are still at risk of fire accidents as flammable chemicals are still being stored on the ground floor of residential buildings without any safety measure.
Beside chemical warehouses, warehouses of plastic raw materials have also been set up in many areas of Old Dhaka without fire safety measures.
Following a survey conducted by Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD), 360 chemical warehouses in residential buildings were identified in two wards of Old Dhaka.
The survey was conducted in Lalbagh, Bangshal, Armanitola, Moulavibazar, Imamganj, Islambagh, Shahidnagar, Kamrangirchar, Chalkbazar, Mitford and Babubazar. There are narrow inaccessible roads in the residential areas having no water reservoirs for fire fighting.
According to the findings of the survey, chemicals have been stored without fire safety measures and they are also being handled carelessly.
While visiting Mitford area, this correspondent found chemical drums on lanes posing a high risk of accident. Even, the cautionary signs were also removed from the chemical drums.
Naimul Islam, a local resident, said that they are living at high risk as many chemical warehouses are located in their area.
“The government should take immediate measures to relocate chemical warehouses before happening of any further accident like that of Nimtoli,” he said.
A chemical trader said they are not getting help from the government for relocating chemical factories.
Chemical warehouses are sources of most of the fire incidents in Old Dhaka, according to Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSDC).
Major AKM Shakil Newaz, director of Fire Service and Civil Defence, said the big issue is that Old Dhaka is full of narrow inaccessible roads having no natural water reservoirs for fire fighting.
Contacted, Chief Inspector of the Department of Explosives, Shamsul Alam, told daily sun, “There is no valid licence for dealing with hazardous chemicals in the residential areas. The only way to avoid the danger is to relocate the chemical warehouses as soon as possible.”
Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mohammad Sayeed Khokon conducted mobile courts after the deadline (March 1) for relocation of chemical warehouses from Old Dhaka. But, chemical warehouses are still available in Old Dhaka.
“We shall not allow any warehouse for storing flammable materials in Old Dhaka for safety of the old city dwellers,” the DSCC mayor said.