NEW DELHI: A Delhi Development Authority (DDA) flat is a prized possession for anyone in the Capital. But it can also be equally dangerous, a safety audit conducted by the Delhi Fire Services has found.
The audit conducted in DDA colonies in May has listed 20 ‘most vulnerable’ areas -- ticking ‘fire bombs’. Apart from other reasons, rapid commercialisation of residential space is a major cause for worry in these colonies.
Residents are often seen extending a single-room apartment to accommodate multiple bedrooms and elaborate balconies.Two-room sets almost become ‘penthouses’. If that is not enough, even the garage space is pushed till the edge of the road to build commercial establishments.
In case of fire, these innovations become death traps.
Among the most dangerous neighbourhoods, east Delhi’s Dilshad Garden, Nand Nagri, Mayur Vihar phase-III (Kondli), west Delhi’s Mundka, Janakpuri and south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj top the list.
The audit conducted in 50 colonies found that none of these were equipped with basic fire-fighting equipment. If a fire breaks out, residents have to rely only on rescue operations, with no first response available.
According to officials, fire incidents are reported from these colonies because occupants mindlessly extend their houses to accommodate commercial establishments.
“In DDA flats, people have no restrictions on expansion, mainly because it is easier to get away with it. What residents do not realise is that they are only increasing the chances of accidents. By increasing load on electricity wiring, chances of short circuits and fire multiply. Another problem is that unlike cooperative societies, maintenance of these colonies is poor,” said a senior fire official.
Every year, over 40% of the total fire accidents reported in the city happen because the electricity supply system is overloaded than the capacity.
“In colonies around Mayur Vihar Phase-III and Jhilmil, the commercial spaces branch out to such an extent that they almost reach the neighbouring houses. If a minor spark breaks out, there is a major risk of the fire spreading to adjacent flats,” the officials said.
In Vasant Kunj blocks B-11, B-3, and D-1, private clinics and property businesses are operating. These services are per mitted under the mixed land use category. But residents have been asked to keep a check on expansions.
Each fire unit has been given a list of the most fire-prone colonies in their area. Over the next few months, local fire units will conduct sessions with residents’ welfare associations(RW As) and teach them to handle contingencies.
The gazette notification amending the Master Plan of Delhi (2001) says mixed land use is allowed in residential areas but with certain conditions.
“Retail shops are allowed, except the hazardous and nuisance causing ones, in residential premises, up to a maximum of 25% of the ground space area, or 50 square metres of the floor area, whichever is less. But service units, godowns, manufacturing units and junk shops, etc., are not permitted to run,” the guidelines read.
Many of these colonies are stuck between multiple authorities. After construction, DDA colonies are passed on the local civic agency, which is responsible for checking these illegal encroachments, for maintenance.
“Almost 70% of the DDA flats have been modified from the original construction and we agree it is a major safety issue. These colonies are denotified after construction and we cannot do anything to check these illegal constructions,” said a senior DDA official.