Centre issues guidelines for high-rise buildings

Stress laid on mock drills and no objection certificate

Three months after 93 people perished in the country’s worst-ever hospital fire tragedy in Kolkata, the Centre has come out with a set of guidelines for construction of high-rise buildings.

According to the new guidelines issued by the Union Environment Ministry, if a building’s height varies between 15 and 30 metres, the road width should at least be 15 metres. But it is always desirable to have an 18-metre wide road in front of the building.

For sky scrapers with more than 60 metres height, the road in front of the building should be between 30 and 45 metres wide. On the proximity of fire stations, the guidelines suggest that for buildings with a height of 30-45 metres, the nearest fire station should be located at a minimum distance of 10 km but it is better if the fire station is located within a distance of 5 km.

Those high-rises with a height of 60 metres and above, the fire station should at least be within a distance of 2 km. But the desirable distance should be 10 minutes of driving for the fire brigade to reach once it is informed about a fire.

The guidelines were finalised by an expert appraisal committee in the environment ministry, which though finalised it in September, 2011 released only in March—in the wake of a tragic fire incident at AMRI Hospitals in Kolkata.

One of the challenges the Kolkata fire department faced was a narrow approach road in front of the hospital, which made it difficult for fire engines to deploy a large number of fire tenders. The hospital administration was also accused of delaying in informing the fire department.

While linking the building’s height with that of road width and distance of fire station, the new guidelines also laid stress on mandatory mock up drills and obtaining a no-objection certificate from the state government before construction starts and occupancy begins.

The guidelines, however, left it to state level environment impact assessment authorities to make the provisions more stringent in certain states, if they want depending on local conditions.

At the moment, most of the large scale real estate development requires clearance from state and central government depending on the built up area and the amount of effluent released by the building. Environmental activists, however, allege that ambiguities have deliberately been left in a 2006 EIA notification to benefit the real estate lobby.

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