The Mumbai fire brigade could have responded to the Kalbadevi fire much faster had the lanes leading to the building been wider.
But these narrow lanes are usually not widened because most owners of buildings that are redeveloped prefer not to surrender the additional area, in return for a premium from builders.
The tragic fire however, has authorities paying more attention to the need for wider roads. Dr Sangeeta Hasnale, the assistant municipal commissioner of C-ward, which includes crowded, commercial areas such as the Marine Lines station, Kalbadevi road and Zaveri Bazaar, has written to the municipal commissioner asking that residents’ demand to not surrender this area — called setback area — during redevelopment proposals of old and dilapidated structures in the ward not be entertained.
“We get a number of proposals from the owners of dilapidated structures, demanding the waiving off of the setback area, but that has led to continuation of narrow lanes in the ward,” Hasnale said.
“Three days ago, I wrote to the municipal commissioner, suggesting the setback area not be waived off. The decision on it is pending,” Hasnale said.
Hasnale’s letter, a copy of which is with HT, said C-ward is a commercial area with narrow lanes.
It sees a heavy floating population. If the lanes are not widened, the danger of disasters will continue, the letter points out.
The letter also highlighted the struggle of the fire brigade to reach Gokul Niwas through the narrow lanes last Saturday. The fire brigade lost three of its senior officials in the fire, and chief fire officer, Sunil Nesarikar, is battling for life.
Sources said C-ward residents have often submitted proposals for major and minor repairs in the dilapidated structures, but have refused to vacate buildings for redeveloped. This makes the situation worse.