In a stark reminder of how unsafe are our cities, a new Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report has revealed how fire safety norms are ignored in eight cities, including Mumbai, in Maharashtra. Other cities mentioned in the report are Thane, Navi Mumbai, Nashik, Pune, Aurangabad, Amravati and Nagpur.
The report states that between 2010 and 2015, 78% of the amount reserved for upgrading fire-fighting systems was unspent, resulting in a severe shortage of equipment and infrastructure.
In case of fire tenders, which play a crucial role during fire-fighting operations, the CAG noted that there was a 78% shortage in the eight cities, severely affection the ability to tackle fires. The number of fire stations in the cities was also way below what is required. Instead of 175 fire stations across the eight cities, with one every 10 sq km, the cities have only 70 fire stations, a shortfall of 60%.
What’s worse; the shortage of apparatus and equipment was even scary, putting lives of firefighters at risk. The CAG report found that only 8% breathing apparatus vans, used for treating survivors and firefighters, were operational, with the rest 92% not even bought.
While Mumbai fared relatively better than the other cities, the CAG found that only 12% of hydrants – 1,260 of 10,637 – in the city were functional. Indicting the civic body for this, the CAG said, “Non-functional courtyard fire hydrants was one of the reasons that severely impaired firefighting capabilities of the fire department in tackling three major accidents – Garib Nagar slums, the Mantralaya fire and the one at Andheri’s Lotus Business park.”
The CAG, however, has rapped the state government for refusing to learn from its mistakes, which led to the Mantralaya fire in 2012. The CAG said that against rules, two canteens were being illegally operated using LPG cylinders on the 5th and 12th floors of the new state administrative building. It also said the lift lobby, on various floors, was found to be blocked by wooden and steel cupboards, leading to a possible tragedy.