Delhi hotel fire: Khan Market, CP, Hauz Khas markets on radar for fire safety risks
Three of Delhi’s major markets — Connaught Place, Khan Market and Hauz Khas — have been on the radar for fire safety risks and structural stability concerns for a decade now.Updated: Feb 14, 2019 11:28 IST
Karol Bagh is not the only market in Delhi that is under the scanner for fire safety. A number of other popular markets are sitting ducks despite several fire incidents and court warnings.
Three of Delhi’s major markets — Connaught Place, Khan Market and Hauz Khas — have been on the radar for fire safety risks and structural stability concerns for a decade now. This is despite civic agencies preparing multiple redevelopment plans, some of which are yet to be implemented.
The heritage shopping arcade of Connaught Place saw two building collapses in 2017. First, the roof of Jain Book Agency caved in. A few days later, a side wall of Unplugged Courtyard Restaurant gave way. No one was injured in either incident.
Atul Bhargava, president, New Delhi Traders Association (NDTA), said, “There must be regular fire and structural audits in Conaught Plcae by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). Money (earned by the restro-bars) is one thing but safety of customers is most important.”
Both in CP and Khan Market, the main point of concern has been single entry and exit staircase to most restro-bars that are less than 1.5 metre in width. Most say their seating capacity is less than 50 to avoid fire department NOC, but fill up to 100 customers on weekends. Also, they either clandestinely use the terrace as roof-top restaurants or crowd it with diesel generator sets, water tanks, AC plants or mobile towers, blocking rescue operations when required.
A senior officer of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) said, “CP was built in 1929. The restro-bar owners on upper floors randomly break pillars to create halls to accommodate additional crowds. They don’t even consult architects. As a result, they weaken the structures and make them prone to collapses, especially during earthquakes.”
In August 2016, a building caught fire in Hauz Khas Village in south Delhi claiming the life of a young businessman, Gourav Taneja, and injurng his French friend. Fire officers said they had “difficulty reaching the building due to the narrow and congested lanes of Hauz Khas Village.”
Even the Delhi high court in September 2017 called Hauz Khas a “ticking time bomb” and observed that neither the government agencies nor restaurant owners of the area were doing anything regarding safety and other issues.
Authorities have often expressed worries over very narrow entry lanes, loosely hanging electric wires, unplanned buildings, unauthorised parking and constructions that can block rescue efforts in the event of a calamity.
In Khan Market, the ground floor retail shop owners have been engaged in a bitter legal fight with the resto-bar owners on the upper floors with relation to the latter’s “risky operations.” Even the Supreme Court, which is hearing the matter, has expressed concern over the situation many times.
The president of Khan Market Traders Association, Sanjeev Mehra, said, “We had agreed to the New Delhi Municipal Council’s 2013 redevelopment plan calling for the roof of the second floor to be left vacant as a fire emergency refuge. This is yet to be implemented.”