RAJUK, South City Corporation, police on separate fire safety drives

The Gausia Twin Peak building on Satmasjid Road of Dhanmondi in the capital has permission for offices, but was being used for a booming restaurant business.14 restaurants of the building have been shut down and the rooftop restaurant there has been demolished. Monday afternoon,Sazid Hossain

RAJUK, the South City Corporation and the police are carrying out their separate operations as they want. Experts say that these operations must be run in order to save people’s lives, to eliminate the risk of fire and to ensure safety. However, this must be done on the basis of coordinated short-term, mid-term and long-term planning. That will yield better results.

When asked whether the operations were coordinated or not, public works secretary Wasi Uddin told Prothom Alo that for the time being RAJUK was operating on its own accord. The other offices of the government were not able to carry out drives every day due to lack of workforce and other work pressure. That was why it was not possible at the moment for all the agencies to be working in coordination. He said that the RAJUK would carry out its raids in Dhanmondi, Satmasjid Road and other areas were restaurants were being run in violation of the rules. Later the drives would be carried out in coordination with other government organisations.

According to the fire service and civil defence directorate, their inspection reveals that 2,603 buildings in the capital are at risk of fire. On the risk list are 801 educational institutions, 345 hospitals and 325 residential buildings.

RAJUK raids

RAJUK Zone-3 director and executive magistrate Tazina Sarwar conducted the drive at Dhanmondi’s Gausia Twin Peak building along with other officials, employees of the agency, as well as police and a member of RAB.

Those conducting the drive said that the Gausia Twin Peak building was 15-storey and had restaurants on the various floors. The restaurants closed before the operations began yesterday, Monday.

Executive magistrate Tazina Sarwar, speaking to the media, said that the permission for the building was taken under the F-1 category, meaning it can be used for offices. But it was seen that there were offices only on two floors. The rest has restaurants, pharmacies and clothing stores. According to the building design, she pointed out, the roof was supposed to remain open. However, a restaurant, Retro Life Kitchen, was opened up there. RAJUK demolished that that the start of the operation.

While the operation was underway, officials of the Gausia Twin Peak building developer authorities and their lawyer turned up at the site. The company’s logistic manager Rashidul Islam told newspersons that they had permission from the public works department to have restaurants there.

Police arrested seven persons during a raid of restaurants at the Gausia Twin Peak Tower on Satmasjid Road yesterday, Monday
Sazid Hossain

Rashidul Islam also said, “We sold out the floors and owners of the floors rented out the premises to restaurants. The developer has no liability. If time is given, we will take measures in accordance to the RAJUK approval. If at least 15 days’ time is given, steps will be taken against the restaurants.”

During the drive, the owners of the Spice Herbs restaurant were fined Tk 200,000.Owner of the restaurant Raisul Alam Khan told Prothom Alo, “I had no idea that a restaurant couldn’t be opened here. I did not know that the district administration’s permission was required either. This was a commercial building and so I set up the restaurant. What is our fault? What will we do now?”

Md Jiban, an employee of White Facewash, an establishment in the Keari Crescent, was standing in front of the building. He told Prothom Alo, if the shops were suddenly shut down like this before the holy month of Ramadan, they would be in trouble. They wouldn’t be able to get jobs so soon anywhere

RAJUK’s drive continued till late afternoon. Speaking to Prothom Alo in the evening, executive magistrate Tazina Sarwar said 10 restaurants in the building had been sealed. The power lines of some of the restaurants had been disconnected. The restaurants which had no doors could not be sealed. In all, the restaurants in the building have all been shut down.

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South City drive

There are 11 restaurants in Keari Crescent Plaza on Satmasjid Road. Executive magistrate Md Jahangir Alam led the South City Corporation raid there. He told the media. The building has two staircases, but one is closed, unfit for use. It is used to store gas cylinders. The roof is closed too. If there is an accident, no one can go there.

After inspection, the building was sealed due to fire risk. The restaurants had closed yesterday before the drive began.

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Other than the building being sealed, three staff members of an office there, Visa World Wide, were arrested as the premises lacked proper fire safety. They were released as a fine of Tk 300,000 was paid. Those conducting the drive said that the proprietors were not there at the time.

Members of the fire service were also present during the drive. Deputy assistant director of the fire service Tanhar Islam told the media that there was no fire safety plan there and saw a cautionary banner had been hung up.

Md Jiban, an employee of White Facewash, an establishment in the Keari Crescent, was standing in front of the building. He told Prothom Alo, if the shops were suddenly shut down like this before the holy month of Ramadan, they would be in trouble. They wouldn’t be able to get jobs so soon anywhere.

The fire service had hung up a banner in the front of Keari Crescent Tower on Satmasjid Road in Dhanmondi, declaring the building to be risky
Suvra Kanti Das

After Jigatala, the South City Corporation carried out a drive at Rupayan ZR Plaza on Satmasjid Road. Three restaurants there, The Buffet Empire, The Buffet Lounge and Buffet Paradise, were fined Tk 100,000 each for inadequate fire safety systems.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Dhaka South City spokesperson and public relations officer Abu Naser, said that the corporation was inspecting the fire safety systems of the restaurants in public interest. They were carrying out this drive along with the fire service.

Police raids

Speaking about the drive carried out at Rankin Street of Wari in Old Dhaka, the police said they saw that the stairs in some of the restaurants were being used to store gas cylinders and kitchen equipment. Some of the restaurants had no fire extinguishing system. Some had no emergency exit stairways. Most of the restaurants were running in residential buildings.

DMP’s Wari division deputy commissioner Iqbal Hossain said, irregularities were found in most of the restaurants. But there were restaurants in several commercial buildings that were following the rules and regulations. These restaurants had proper fire safety systems, emergency exit staircases and all facilities.

RAJUK, the city corporation and other organisations generally carry out the safety inspections of the buildings. The police normally do not carry out this responsibility. No restaurants are being shut down in the police drives.

When asked why the police were carrying out these drives now, the DMP media and public relations deputy commissioner Md Faruk Hossain told Prothom Alo, there are government agencies to look into these matters. But the operations of these agencies are being questioned. That is why the police is running these drives alongside the service agencies. The police’s drives are being carried out in accordance to the law.

The exact number of restaurants in Dhaka city could not be determined. However, the restaurant owners have an association. Speaking to Prothom Alo on Monday, the association’s secretary general Islam Hasan said that the discrepancies in the state machinery are now being shifted onto others’ shoulders. The building owners are powerful and so remain untouched. It is the small business people that are being harassed. It is not just one quarter who is at fault. All this has been continuing under everyone’s noses for years and years. He said, let the restaurants be given some time. A taskforce can be formed to carry out monitoring throughout the year. This will include the restaurant owners association.

Monitoring needed throughout the year

The issue of fire hazards in Dhaka came to the fore in 2010 when a devastating fire broke out in Nimtali of Old Dhaka where 124 people died. After that various government bodies carried out drives, but there has been no coordinated work plan for a long-term operation. As a result, death risks in fire accidents have no lessened. In fact, experts say, the risks have increased.

Professor Akter Mahmud of Jahangirnagar University’s Urban and Regional Planning Department, told Prothom Alo that RAJUK, the fire service, the police and al concerned have separate responsibilities. RAJUK’s responsibilities were to monitor the buildings throughout the year. The fire service had the same responsibility. There needs to be monitoring round the year. He said, an integrated plan is needed as in the Rana Plaza collapse incident.      

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