The Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP) believes that the devastating Armanitola fire in Old Dhaka was not an accident. Rather, it was due to the profit motive of businessmen and homeowners, and the failure of government authorities concerned in discharging their responsibilities.
The BIP has called for the exemplary punishment of culprits after finding out why the directives issued by the government after the deadly Nimtoli and Churihatta fires were not implemented and initiatives to remove the chemical factories did not materialise.
"Such an incident should not have happened now if the lives and resources of the people were given priority. No one can prevent the recurrence of such incidents unless the government takes strong steps to protect the public interest and the lives and property of the people, without succumbing to influential quarters and political parties behind non-implementation of the decisions of ministries and various agencies," read a press release.
The BIP expressed deep shock at the loss of life and extensive damage in the fire that broke out in the early hours of Friday on the ground floor of a residential building, leaving four people dead and more than 20 others wounded.
The risky chemical depots were not removed from Old Dhaka even after 11 years of the Nimtoli tragedy that left more than 100 people dead despite repeated calls from all responsible quarters of the country, including the Bangladesh Institute of Planners.
To press home its demand, the BIP said, it had many times reminded the authorities concerned about the ultimate truth that "Old Dhaka is living on bombs."
"We are aware that the city corporation has stopped issuing trade licences for chemical warehouses after the Nimtoli and Churihatta fires, which is commendable," it said. "But in spite of the responsibilities of the city corporation and ward council's office, the factories department, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, explosives department, fire service, and other agencies concerned operating surveillance of chemical warehouses and factories in Old Dhaka, the agencies were not able to carry out their duties."
Stating that human life is not interchangeable or replaceable, the BIP said chemical warehouses or factories can no longer be allowed to operate, putting people's lives at risk, added the press release.
"It is the responsibility of the government to take strong steps in this regard," said the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, emphasising that the government take strong and effective steps in this regard without any compromise with businessmen or influential quarters.