Slow progress in relocating the hazardous chemical and plastic factories from the old part of Dhaka city appears to indicate that the project is stuck in a lack of urgency that kickstarted it years ago. First, it was the horrifying Nimtoli blaze way back in June 2010, then the one at Chawkbazar years later as well as a few more that made shifting of such units a must. The government was quick to respond positively. The decision to relocate the factories to a safer and thinly populated location was received well by all quarters. But it seems to be taking too long.
Following the decision of relocation, there were few moves that needed to be remodelled and amended. At the beginning, an inter-ministerial committee selected 20 acres of land in Keraniganj's Sonakanda to build high-rise buildings to house those factories and warehouses. A project proposal was also prepared, but things did not advance further. In 2018, another project 'BSCIC Chemical Palli, Dhaka' was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC). The Tk 2.01 billion project on 50 acres of land in South Keraniganj was planned to have 936 plots. That project was amended following the Chawkbazar fire in 2019, and a fresh project was taken up to construct 'BSCIC Industrial Park, Munshiganj' in Sirajdikhan, Munshiganj. The project was said to have 2,154 plots under it. According to planning ministry officials, the government has allocated Tk 82.70 crore for the project under the 2022-23 Annual Development Programme. However, the project duration is yet to be extended.
Shifting the hazardous plants and warehouses is indeed a time-consuming job given the need for developing new location/s with required facilities, including communication and infrastructure. Reports say works on the project sites are going on, but not with the required momentum. Meanwhile, the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) is reported to have provided a list of around 2,000 units in April, 2021 for relocation. According to a survey conducted jointly by the DSCC, the Department of Explosives and the Fire Service and Civil Defence, 96 per cent of the factories and warehouses are at moderate risk, 0.5 per cent at high risk and 3.5 per cent at low risk. The chemicals dealt with by the factories include methylene, perfumery, food flavours, machine oils, acids, colour flavours, tarpin, pyramine, soda, glycerine, citric salt, gypsum.
Keeping in view the present state of the project work, it is uncertain how long will it take to shift the factories. The Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation has reportedly said 70 per cent of the land filling in the project locations is complete and they hope to hand over the plots to the owners by June 2023. On receipt of the plots, the owners of the factories will need time to build structures and also complete all other related works. So, unless there is a well coordinated move, backed up by urgency, it is feared that relocation may not be a reality in the near future.