Dhaka, March 8 (UNB)- The government’s drive to remove chemical factories from Old Dhaka following the horrific fire that killed 71 people in Churirhatta on February 20, has dented business of some ancillary industries as well, such as plastic raw materials.
Proprietors of such businesses said they are facing an alarming situation after the fire incident. Besides, the government officials disconnected many houses’ electricity, gas and water lines. So they could not sell their raw materials to producers whose factories have closed.
“Why cut off electricity line and harass them in the name of drive without even fixing land for them first?” they questioned.
After visiting the surrounding areas of Haji Wahed Mansion, ground zero of the February 20 fire, many traders were seen reposed to not getting customers.
Muhammad Kamal Hossain, proprietor of Kamal Plastic Center, said there are mainly plastic businesses in the area. He also said his sales have gone down around 80 percent after the fire incident and the government’s drive.
“The government officials who are conducting the drive in the name of removing chemical warehouses, do not try to hear our voice, they come and disconnect our factories’ electricity line. But there is no combustible substance factory, we only do plastic recycling. You don’t need chemical for this,” he also said.
Another trader said their business came down also.
Tuhin Plastic center’s owner Tuhin Kawser and Nasir PVC Center Manager Parvez said they could sell 20 to 50 sacks raw materials of plastic before the fire incident every day but now they can’t sell even five sacks.
Parvez said the Old Dhaka is a business hub of Bangladesh, and the government should at least fix land for their relocation before the drive.
“Government officials come and tell us to shift to Keraniganj. But we cannot shift over protesting locals there, who seem to think we will pollute environment there too like here. Now where we will go?” he questioned.
Mohammad Selim, proprietor of M/S Sunan Store in Chawkbazar said that they cannot sell home accessories for lack of customers. “In the past, we could not take rest over pressure for sale but now we have to wait for a customer. We expect the situation to change soon.”
According to Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) sources, electricity and gas connections to total 109 buildings in different parts of Old Dhaka including Hosnidalan, Nazimuddin Road, Mali Tola, Hazaribagh, Islampur, East Islambag, and Waiz Ghat that housed chemical warehouses were cut off till Thursday. The taskforce, formed by DSCC, is conducting the drive and will continue till April 1.
Babul Sikder, a resident of Haji Ahsanullah House where electricity, gas and water connections were cut off several days ago, said he has been living in the house for 25 years. There was a shoe factory under the first floor of the seven-storey building.
“Cutting off line creates somewhat problems. But it will be solved. We are lobbying with government officials to connect the lines again. Now we have to pass time in darkness. We hope it will end soon. The factory’s equipment and chemical have been removed from our house,” he also said.
Haji Sheikh Md Javed, General Secretary of Bangladesh Plastic Babosayee Samity told UNB that several hundred traders are engaged in the business. All of them are in dire straits not getting customers.
“Many factories are closed, so the traders cannot sell products to them. It will solve the problem if the government takes positive initiative. We want that the Old Dhaka to be a chemical-free area. But there is no combustible substance in the area,” he also said.
He further said they met with the prime minister’s private sector advisor Salman F Rahman on Wednesday. “He ensured us that the government won’t harass us.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday expressed her government’s firm stance to remove the warehouses of inflammable materials from Old Dhaka and other residential areas of the capital.
“Such inflammable materials can’t be allowed to be here. We’re looking for a separate place for them (businessmen). We don’t want to ruin their businesses. But no chemical godown can be allowed to be there in residential areas,” she said referring to the recent Chawkbazar fire incident.