The fire at the Gokul Nivas building in Kalbadevi on Saturday has raised concerns about the existing old and dilapidated structures in south Mumbai. Ignorance about fire safety, coupled with congestion in narrow lanes, make these crumbling structures vulnerable to fires.
According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) data, the five wards in the island city have a high number of dilapidated structures.
According to data compiled by the BMC last year, there were 323 dilapidated buildings between Colaba and Byculla (Ward A to E). The highest number of dangerous structures are in ward B (Dongari, Umarkhadi) at 129. There are 90 dangerous structures in ward E (Byculla), 65 in ward A (Colaba, Fort) 52 in ward C (Kalbadevi, Chandanwadi) and 52 in ward D (Grant Road, Tardeo). Dongari, Kalbadevi, Bhuleshwar and Byculla also have the problem of congested lanes.
The difficulties faced by the fire brigade while fighting the fire at Gokul Nivas has forced the civic body to discuss the problem of congested lanes in Bhuleshwar and Kalbadevi. “The most serious problem in Kalbadevi is narrow lanes. During the fire on Saturday, roads leading to Gopal Nivas were obstructed by parked vehicles. The fire brigade struggled to reach the spot,” said Vimal Joshi, a resident of Kalbadevi.
Joshi said, “The connecting road from Gokul Nivas is 90-feet wide, but due to parking and illegal hawkers, its width has reduced to about 30 feet. This is just one example. There is rampant illegal parking on all roads in Kalabdevi and Bhuleshwar. This makes it impossible for the large fire tenders to move fast.”
Ignorance and apathy about fire safety in these buildings adds to the problem. Retired chief fire officer Kiran Kadam said, “We have never learned from our past experiences. Such buildings are vulnerable to disaster and always pose a threat to the life of firefighters. It’s like a death trap; old crumbling structures may fall at any time.”
Retired fire officer PD Karguppikar said, “In Kalbadevi and Bhuleshwar, most of the residential buildings have been turned into commercial ones. They store lots of combustible materials like cloth, wood, LPG cylinders.”