Few lessons learnt from Carlton fire

Few lessons learnt from Carlton fire

 After considerable damage to the top floors of Carlton, it was hoped that the government would empower fire and emergency services to re-inspect high-rise buildings.

The state government debated a policy to this effect on February 23, 2010, but things barely moved from there.

Tellingly, the seat of power, Vidhana Soudha, continues to be susceptible to fire accidents, but the government chose to sit on the status report on the Carlton fire submitted to it in 2007. The out-dated procedure of issuing no-objection certificates (NOCs) at the initial stage of construction has tied the hands of the Fire and Emergency Department who can’t examine the buildings after they open for business.

The department seems nowhere in the picture when building plans come up for approval. “We are approached by the builders only after the slabs are laid,” said a Fire and Emergency Department official.

The Carlton Tower fire should have opened the government’s eyes to the possibility of similar tragedies as the number of high-rises in the city is growing. But inexplicably, the issue has not figured among the major civic plans.

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), which sanctions construction of high-rises, is showing no signs that it would consider re-examination of safety mechanisms in buildings should  it detect violations.

As uncertainties over its policy continues, the BBMP has shown an increase of 23 per cent in building plan sanctions, with over 118 high-rises above the height of 15 metres in 2009-10 alone. During the six months till October 2010, the BBMP had given approval to 5,000-odd buildings, including high-rises.

The case, however, isn’t lost completely. Fire Department officials point out to assurances by Home Minister R Ashoka that the re-inspection power will be delegated to them soon.
The BBMP remains silent over the question whether it would present the case for inspecting building violation at the Palike Council.

Most citizens, including those who survived the tragedy, are keeping their fingers crossed. They know the next time they are faced with a similar incident, they would jump to safety.

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