City on tinderbox as NMMC sleeps over fire hydrants

City on tinderbox as NMMC sleeps over fire hydrants

The gutting of three shops of Center One shopping mall on Sunday evening. Fortunately, there were no casualties in the blaze. Though incidents of fires breaking out are not new in Navi Mumbai as every second month there is one major fire accident in the city. But Sunday’s incident has once again highlighted the need for NMMC to deal with the problem proactively instead of being mute spectator to such accidents.
Around one year back the Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nahata had ordered a thorough survey of the buildings in the city. According to civic records, there are 330 buildings taller than 24 metres and 1179 are shorter than that. In addition, there are 15 gas godowns, 39 petrol pumps and 46 timber marts all of which are considered highly prone to fire hazards. The survey was undertaken to identify what sort of fire fighting equipment these buildings have and if they are in working condition or not.
To undertake the task, he had appointed a six-member special squad consisting of fire brigade personnel. Unit chief Vijay Rane. Deputy chief Ganesh Patil, Fire Officer Vivek Mhatre, Firemen Dattatray Patil, Operator Sameer Parab, OS Waghamre and S B Sawant constituted the squad. They were asked to submit their report within 45 days.
The cost of the survey was to be shared by residents. They were to pay at the rate of Re. 0.25 per sq metre for residential buildings and Re 0.50 per sq metre for commercial buildings. However till date no reports on the said survey have been brought to light by NMMC.
An RTI activist Dinesh Jain who has been consistently pursuing the Corporation to underline the importance of fire hydrants alleges that due to scant regard for fire safety measures, the city is virtually sitting on a tinderbox.
According to Jain, there are 137 fire hydrants in the city, out of them only one is in proper working condition. As per the Municipal law there must be one fire hydrant at a distance of 45 metres with 24×7 water availability. Navi Mumbai is spread over 104 sq km so the total number of water hydrants it requires is around 2,314. In such a situation how safe are residents if a fire breaks out?
“The Corporation is only concerned with finalizing big projects which bring in big money,” he charges.
According to an official of Fire Department, “There are many buildings in the city which do not have NOC from the department. Unfortunately, people buying houses in Navi Mumbai never enquire about it. He claimed ignorance about the survey as the unit chief Vijay Rane is abroad.”

—Jaspal Singh Naol

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