As the devastating blaze in Kolkata has raised fresh concerns in all metropolises, Delhi presents a grim picture with more than 700 high-rise buildings found to be flouting fire safety norms.
Non-installation of fire equipment, congested staircases, narrow entry roads and absence of trained personnel to tackle emergencies are major causes of concern in many multi-storeyed buildings in the capital's busy markets like Sadar Bazaar, Karol Bagh and Gandhi Nagar.
In residential areas, especially 'lal dora' areas, illegal constructions and congested roads are the basic problems which could make the situation grimmer in case of incidents of fire.
"We have issued notices to 718 high-rise buildings for violating fire safety norms in the capital, while 215 other buildings were re-notified after inaction on previous notices," said R C Sharma, chief fire officer, Delhi.
Sharma said, "We have even cut the water and electricity connections of many buildings that have violated the fire safety norms and the supply will not be reinstalled if they not put these measures in order".
"To tackle the situation in commercial complexes we have high ladders that will go up to 60 metres and for taller buildings, the owners have been ordered to have in-built fire safety measures," he added.
Markets which have low-rise buildings are more vulnerable to such incidents because as per the Building Bye Laws Act, 1983, the buildings which are less than 15 metres in height do not require fire safety measures.
"Though most of the authorised buildings in areas like Nehru Place and Rajendra Place are following the fire safety plan, the buildings which are less than 15 metres in height are not secured," the chief fire officer said.
He said, "The whole of Connaught Place, Lajpat Nagar and many buildings in Karol Bagh did not come under our purview and thus we cannot ensure fire safety measures there".
However, keeping this problem in view, the government has already notified the Fire Prevention and Fire Safety Act 2007 and the Fire Department is preparing new guidelines which will address the lacunae, Sharma said.
But the situation is worrying in the lal dora areas (residential rural areas) like Khanpur, Khirki Extension and Madangiri. A survey by the fire department in 2004 found that 20,506 buildings had four plus storeys, flouting the building bye laws.
"They had been issued notices but even if they wanted, most of them failed to comply with the norms as it was not possible to build six metre-wide streets and water tanks with the capacity of 5,000 to two lakh litres due to space crunch," Sharma said.