The long-awaited relocation of the wholesale and retail kitchen markets from Karwan Bazar to three other areas of the capital is being delayed due to the negligence of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) officials, a project insider has claimed.
The project to relocate the units to Aminbazar, Mohakhali and Jatrabari was initiated by the army-backed caretaker government over a decade ago.
However, a DNCC official seeking anonymity told the Dhaka Tribune that after missing “around half a dozen” deadlines since 2006, the relocation of Karwan Bazar kitchen market is still pending due to slow progress in rearranging and setting up the new shops and warehouses.
“One of the main reasons for the project’s drawback is the legal complexity in the acquisition of land for the alternative markets,” he said.
The official also cited irregularities including the corruption of some DNCC officials a lack of funds, slack monitoring, and traders’ disagreements for the protracted delay.
However, the DNCC officials concerned denied the allegations and claimed that the traders’ disagreement and syndicates are the only reason behind the delay.
Also Read- Karwan Bazar kitchen market to start moving in November
After being elected in 2015, Dhaka North Mayor Annisul Huq told reporters that he had been able to break the Karwan Bazar traders’ syndicates.
On April 20, 2016, the mayor told the Dhaka Tribune that approximately 17 of the 23 acres of area that the kitchen market occupies would be freed by December, and that all the remaining shops would be cleared out by April 2017.
On May 2, 2016, when talking to reporters during a visit to Karwan Bazar’s burnt-down Hasina Market, Mayor Annisul said all the shops would be shifted “within a few months”. However, when contacted on September 29, he told the Dhaka Tribune that the relocations would likely only start in November 2016.
However, it was not until March of this year that the DNCC and the business owners came to a consensus and signed an agreement to shift all businesses within six months - a deadline which expired in September.
As all the deadlines have passed, the DNCC has still not completed the rearrangement works.
On October 9, DNCC Chief Executive Officer Md Mesbahul Islam said the redecoration of the markets and roads was still a work in progress.
However, during a recent visit to the Mohakhali market, the Dhaka Tribune found that the market is fully ready to begin operations. Only the decoration inside the buildings of Aminbazar and Jatrabari was still ongoing.
Despite this, the DNCC official said they will shift to Aminbazar and Jatrabari markets first.
“We are ready to shift some of the 2,000 shops and the process will start very soon,” Md Omar Faruq, general secretary of Karwan Bazar Wholesale Kitchen Market Traders’ Association, told the Dhaka Tribune.
“But, in the proposal we had recommended the city corporation authority to allocate shops with a size of 400 square-feet instead of 100 to each wholesaler.”
Also Read- Karwan Bazar relocation: Decade old project still missing deadlines
The Karwan Bazar was established in the late 18th century by the Marwari tradesman Kawran (Karwan) Singh on the outskirts of the main settlement area of Dhaka at that time.
In 2006, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved a Tk206 crore project to construct the alternative markets by June 2010.
Project officials said that owing to a funds shortage, the former DCC had sent a revised development project proposal to the Planning Commission in July 2008.
The commission then asked the city corporation to stop the construction of the Mohakhali kitchen market, and suggested it be moved to Tongi instead.
However, the Planning Commission gave its approval for the three kitchen markets and asked that additional money be ensured by the LGRD Ministry. By this time, the construction cost estimated in 2008 had risen by over 50%, from Tk206 crore to Tk314 crore.
After failing to meet the 2010 deadline, the project received an extension until June 2015 and then the budget was again revised, to Tk350 crore.
Meanwhile, after the bifurcation of the DCC in 2012, the project was allocated to the DNCC as two of three new locations – Aminbazar and Mohakhali – fall under its jurisdiction.
The government has chalked out a master plan for around 500 acres of the Tejgaon Industrial Area, which was developed in the 1950s as part of a modernisation move in Dhaka.
The master plan covers industrial, commercial and residential establishments and was disclosed by Housing and Public Works Minister Eng Mosharraf Hossain in April 2016 after an inter-ministerial meeting of the review committee on the plan.
After a long discussion over the master plan at the meeting, its report was submitted to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
As part of the master plan, the DNCC has already cleared occupied roads used as a truck terminal in the Saatrasta area, although a few unscrupulous truck drivers have started to park trucks on the road after Mayor Annisul fell ill.
The DNCC chief had been suffering from neurological problems such as dizziness and lack of balance, and was diagnosed with cerebral vasculitis at the London hospital on August 13.