Congested Chandni Chowk sits on tinderbox

Fire safety

Congested Chandni Chowk sits on tinderbox

Built during the 17th century in the Mughal era, Chandni Chowk is often referred to as the heart of Delhi and continues to be one of India’s oldest and busiest wholesale markets. Also famous for being vulnerable to short circuits, fire breakouts and wall collapses, Chandni Chowk witnessed a fire Monday, which injured 15.

The tapered streets of Delhi’s iconic Chandni Chowk market might add more beauty and lure people from all over the world, but incidents of fire seem to have become quite common, causing harm and loss to many.

The latest fire took place in a bakery shop near Chandi Mahal and was said to have been triggered by an LPG gas leak-induced short-circuit.

Heavy traffic and endless rows of loose wires are a common sight when people struggle to walk through the congested lanes. Fire fighters cannot reach these shops which nestle deep into the lanes. Even if they do manage to reach the concerned spot, the fire has already begun its spread from one shop to the next, courtesy overhanging wires.

Chandni Chowk perhaps is the only place in the City where fire safety laws cannot be applied. Most of these old structures have become weak and are now vulnerable to major wall collapses. Previous incidents of fire include one in Bhagirath Palace, where a fire had raged for five days and firemen had faced extreme difficulty in taking their equipment in.

Fire department chief A K Sharma candidly admits that this is a usual problem with the area and little can be done. For this particular fire, he says, “We got a call at around 1:45pm. But since, the shop was at least 500-600 meters away from the motorable road, it took us almost an hour to bring the fire under control.” says A K Sharma.

The problems, explains the chief, do not come only because of the narrow lanes but due to slow moving vehicles as well. “There are pedestrians walking. We cannot take our vehicles through the narrow lanes. These areas have been there since ages. People have constructed their houses and started commercial activities. The density of population is very high there and the increase in demand of density, there is an increase in the demand of electrical power,” he informs.

So, the wires get to stay and continue to make lives more vulnerable to hazards.

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