The government’s efforts to relocate chemical warehouses and factories from Old Dhaka to Keraniganj have been on the back burner for nine years. The effort was taken in 2010 after the deadly Nimtoli fire that killed 124 people. The government first planned to set up a chemical industrial park in Keraniganj but backtracked on the decision for the lack of required land. Then the government decided to complete the park in Sirajdikhan upazila at the cost of Tk 16.49 billion within June 2022. Unfortunately, the process of acquiring land for the park is yet to be started.
Efforts to relocate the chemical warehouses and factories were stepped up again when another fire in Chawakbazar's Churihatta claimed 71 lives on 20 February this year. A taskforce of the city corporation took certain measures.
As setting up a chemical industrial park is time-consuming, the government took up two projects of Tk 1.68 billion to shift the chemical factories and warehouses on a temporary basis. Two spots were chosen to temporarily shift the chemical warehouses to six acres of land of Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corporation (BSEC) in Gazipur and over six acres of land of Ujala Match Factory in Shyampur of Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC). But, none of the places could be retrieved from illegal land grabbers over past eight months. The future of both the projects is uncertain.
Questions have also been raised over the two temporary projects. As the government has planned to set up a chemical industrial park in Sirajdikhan, the two temporary projects may create new complexities. It will not only waste government money but also affect the chemical businessmen of Old Dhaka.
How long will it take to relocate the chemical factories and warehouses of Old Dhaka? Will the Old Dhaka dwellers have to wait for another massive fire to witness the relocation process? Several agencies of the government are saying that they are trying to relocate the chemical warehouses, but the Chemical and Perfumery Merchants' Association claimed that no one discussed with the businessmen over shifting their warehouses to the two temporary places.
The city corporation taskforce's drive to move the chemical warehouses after the 20 February Churihatta fire has also stopped. The warehouses which were sealed off by the city corporation are now functioning like before. The same thing happened after the Nimtoli tragedy. What has been happening over the relocation of Old Dhaka chemical warehouses and factories for past nine years puts the related ministries' competence into question.