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Your Space: Fire safety issues need topmost importance

The deadly fire in a pub in Mumbai’s Kamala Mills compound is just one of the latest incidents in our cities pointing to lax regulation of fire safety standards. A group of citizens from Pune has been consistently raising this issue with PMC authorities over the last three years highlighting serious fire hazards among building in the city.

pune Updated: Jan 07, 2018 17:03 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Your Space,Fire safety issues
Fourteen people were killed after a massive fire broke out at a building in Kamala Mills compound in the Lower Parel area of Mumbai on December 29 last year.(HT PHOTO)

For the last three years, a group of residents of Pune has been writing to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) raising concerns about fire hazards in Pune’s buildings.

Their fears stand exacerbated in view of the recent incidents such as the one in the Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel, Mumbai, in which 14 people were killed, followed closely by another fire in a Mumbai building which killed four members of a family and injured nine others.

Apart from writing letters, these residents have been meeting top officials from the civic body, including the municipal commissioner, additional municipal commissioner, city engineer, chief fire officer, and those from the building permission department to address the fire safety issues in Pune.

They have even utilised the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) to get sanctioned drawings to see what was sanctioned and how differently it has been implemented.

Following is the text of their letter to Pune municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar, dated June 25, 2017, which failed to get any response.

Dear Mr. Kumar, We are quoting the words of the London Mayor Sadiq Khan that “The Grenfell Tower fire was a ‘preventable accident’ caused by ‘years of neglect’ by the local council and successive governments”.

In this aspect we have to say that the Pune Municipal Corporation and its Fire Department has also been neglecting fire safety and prevention measures to be adopted in under-construction and completed buildings. Such laxity should not be allowed as the consequences can be unimaginable.

Safety measures in case of fire in buildings

Please refer to our earlier letters / complaints in respect to the fire requirement violations in most high-rise buildings and commercial buildings/shopping malls and office buildings of Pune. It is being observed that there is total avoidance by the building control and fire department officials to take any action at all in checking/correcting/penalising the builders taking shortcuts to reduce costs at the expense of fire safety. Seeing the situation on the ground we have no choice but to conclude that the municipal staff are not paying any attention to these aspects at the time of sanctioning of plans or when giving revised sanctions.

Apart from the above, it has been observed that there are many fire law violations after the completion certificate has been issued by way of stalls in the passages or encroachments in the margins. This is very dangerous in case of fire as this will hamper the safe and quick evacuation of citizens in case of fire.

We are listing some of the glaring violations which need immediate attention:

1. Compartmentalisation: Not being followed or implemented at sanction and later stages.

2. Minimum margin space of six metres not being followed or encroached upon.

3. Number of exits is inadequate to evacuate people in 180 seconds.

4. Basements being allowed for commercial activity. This is very serious as from basements large number of people cannot be evacuated in case of fire and also smoke does not have exit points thus making basements virtually death traps in case of fire.

5. Large number of high-rise buildings has been constructed in the past few years without enclosed stairways. We are sorry to state that no corrective measures are being taken in such buildings to render them safe. We consider providing for the enclosed fire escape staircases as essential as mandated in Appendix P of the previous Development Control (DC) Rules.

6. Poor condition or non-existent firefighting equipment in many buildings, No action being taken under fire laws for prosecution of managements of such buildings.

Fire safety measures in auditoriums/Mangal Karyalaya etc

NSCC (National Society for Clean Cities) member, Mr. DVR Rao has been discussing this issue with the chief of the fire department.

It needs stressing that the no auditorium in Pune can be evacuated in 3 minutes (180 seconds) as per the international standard requirement in case of any emergency like fire or bomb blast.

This is a very serious issue and immediate corrective steps need to be undertaken. Fire prevention, firefighting and evacuation of people in enclosed public

places eg auditoriums / Mangal Karyalaya etc should be in uniformity with international standards.

We are given to understand that permission for high-rise buildings is being given even though the fire department does not have ladders that can reach the higher floors.

Cladding in buildings

Most new buildings both residential and commercial/office buildings in Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) areas are using cladding.

We need specific confirmation from you that the PMC and fire department ensure that the quality and fire resistance properties of the materials used for cladding are as per the best practices in buildings under construction. We also need to know how these aspects are being confirmed and at which stage of construction. Further, please let us know (a) the action taken against defaulters if any and if (b) procedures are in place to take penal against defaulters.

Softening of provisions in appendixes of DC Rules

It was very disturbing to know that many of the important fire prevention regulations as mentioned in Appendix P have been deleted in the Appendix L of the Development Control And Promotion Regulations for Pune Municipal Corporation (DCPR-2017).

We have taken strong objection of the same with the urban development department (UDD) of the state government as it was under their authority that the Development Control And Promotion Regulations for Pune Municipal Corporation (DCPR-2017) have been made. We have also demanded the scrapping of Appendix L in favour of Appendix P. Copy of our letter is enclosed.

-DVR Rao, Satish Khot and Arvind Kaushal

First Published: Jan 07, 2018 17:03 IST