We are glad that Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader has publicly stated that the government cannot avoid responsibility for the Chawkbazar tragedy. It is a refreshing change from what we usually witness in the aftermath of such incidents. It can only be hoped that officials will have the moral courage to take responsibility for what is obviously a serious lax in the implementation of safety measures that should have been implemented after the Nimtoli tragedy back in 2010. Like Nimtoli, the Chawkbazar incident has rekindled public demand that storing of chemicals be stopped in the area permanently.
Although the High Court (HC) had directed authorities to relocate all such warehouses from the old town following the Nimtoli tragedy, little has been done to that effect over the last nine years. The court had asked the probe committee to identify unauthorised buildings, warehouses and factories where chemicals and other flammable or petroleum products were stored. It is now obvious that the directives were not taken seriously enough. Had they been, the people of Chawkbazar would not have had to go through the trauma of losing their loved ones to a deadly fire. Taking responsibility would mean authorities revisit the HC directives issued back in 2010 and take measures to stop the storage of these flammable items from the vicinity of not just Chawkbazar, but the old town in general. We have to start treating public safety seriously and preventing the recurrence of another Nimtoli or Chawkbazar will entail continuous monitoring by authorities to stop the hoarding of such materials in the future in congested and residential areas like the old town, which is also home to a sizeable chunk of Dhaka's populace.