It's time for accountability

Mahmudur Rahman | Published: March 04, 2019 22:19:28 | Updated: March 23, 2019 12:51:55

It has taken another 80 lives for realisation to dawn that incendiary chemicals cannot legally or illegally be stored in densely populated areas commercial or otherwise. As it turned out most of the victims at Chawkbazar were either pedestrians walking by or residents where the disastrous chemical explosions took place. What is worse is an insensitive difference in point of view coming at a particularly sensitive time. Whereas Mayor of Dhaka South spoke about removing all chemical factories and godowns from the area, we also had a minister saying it can't be done.

Having said so the government has decided on a BSCIC (Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation) venue and another at Tongi for relocation of these factories and godowns. One just hopes it doesn't take as long for this to happen, and there were some 155 of them in the case of tanneries that took ages and court strictures for the move from Rayerbazar to Savar. Nonetheless, former Minister Amir Hossain Amu can list it as one of his achievements as he did while taking a sly dig at former Industry Minister Dilip Barua for not have done literally anything to relocate chemical storage and production from old Dhaka in spite of the horrendously tragic fire that took 120 lives nearly a decade ago. Luckily, there was no parliamentary opposition of note to cash in on the incident then; there's virtually none today. Mr. Amu had two tenures to complete the job itself and tannery owners are still complaining about the lack of a central effluent plant at Savar.

The planned moves have been swiftly announced but there are many procedural elements that accompany the decision making. Factories, though much less cumbersome than tanneries, will take time to dissemble and there is also the prospect of readying the identified spots for the relocation. No dates have been provided but they're not happening anytime soon. In the meantime, nothing has been said about what happens during the status quo. Because whatever happens, business won't stop overnight and the demand-supply chain will continue to exert a push and pull.

While this is a remedial measure there hasn't been any clear-cut declaration as to why the Nimtali saga from nearly ten years ago has not yielded any action either by the regulatory authorities or by the manufacturers and those involved in storage. It is incomprehensible that no one has been taken to task for the obvious wrong-doing. The list of those responsible is long, be they inspectors, permission grantees, license issuers so on and so forth. For all information available not a single soul has been taken to task. And those who rented out their properties knowingly need to be asked whether these were commercially registered and what the guidelines of chemical storage are. Questions also need to be asked as to what will be done for future, to tackle fires in the tangle of narrow lanes in old Dhaka. There has been one importer suggesting ban in sale of chemicals to old Dhaka-based businesses. Noble, no doubt, but improbable to implement.



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