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Heritage bldgs vulnerable: Experts

The fire at the naval dockyard has exposed the vulnerability of the city’s heritage buildings. Most of these places have old wiring, combustible material such as wooden interiors and inadequate fire fighting equipment, say fire officials.

mumbai Updated: Nov 05, 2011 01:48 IST
HT Correspondent

The fire at the naval dockyard has exposed the vulnerability of the city’s heritage buildings. Most of these places have old wiring, combustible material such as wooden interiors and inadequate fire fighting equipment, say fire officials.

Built in 1807, the building had extensive woodwork and interiors done in rubble stone masonry.

Although naval authorities claim that the building can be reconstructed, they said they would decide on their course of action after receiving the preliminary report about the incident.

According to historian Sharada Dwivedi, who co-authored A City’s Legacy — The Indian Navy’s Heritage in Mumbai, several heritage structures and old buildings were vulnerable to fires as they were in dire need of maintenance.

Another reason is the lack of proper fire safety norms. HN Muzawar, chief fire officer, said, “Since heritage buildings are very old, the current fire safety rules do not apply to them.”

According to Muzawar, such structures are most in danger due to old electric wiring and fittings. “Also, the absence of proper fire safety measures and wooden interiors increase the risk of the fire spreading quickly,” he said.

The now disbanded heritage committee had previously asked the chief fire officer to carry out fire safety audit in such buildings. However, no such audits have been conducted so far.

"Several graded buildings have also been altered to make way for illegal additions, which further add to the risk. These buildings need to be inspected periodically," said a heritage committee member.