A nightmare for firemen

With narrow lanes and electric wires dangling, the Walled City is a headache for firefighters

The congested narrow lanes of the old city, also known as the Walled City of Delhi, are a firefighter’s nightmare.The area is full of shops, godowns, eatries and other businesses, and electric wires dangling from the poles lead to frequent cases of fire due to short circuit.  The power department also doesn’t have many open spaces for their transformers.

So they end up placing them at locations dangerously close to residential and commercial buildings, leading to constant threat of a fire breaking out.

“The old city is not a planned area. It is a typical traditional Indian marketplace. We expect something better from the government. Many plans have been chalked out for widening of roads, and underground electricity supply, but none of them have been implemented yet. The fire tenders can never reach in the interiors of this area as the lanes are narrow,” said Satbir Singh, member of the Market Association of Chandni Chowk.

Ballimaran MLAs Haroon Yusuf and Chandni Chowk MLA Prahlad Singh Sahni, both from the Congress, often launch cleanliness drive and repair of sewers and roads but none of them has ever worked on an infrastructural development plan for the area.

“The lanes are narrow but that’s not a new thing and it cannot be changed. We need a different plan for this area. In last week’s fire, the fire tenders reached the spot an hour late. The best option to avert such situation is to move the transformers out of the residential areas and narrow lanes, and place them at places which are comparatively open and where the fire department can reach easily,” Sahni tells Deccan Herald.

The Walled City is not the only place vulnerable to fires. Some 40 per cent of Delhi’s population lives in densely populated unauthorised colonies spread across the city.
As the name says, these areas are illegal and not planned. Many lanes are so narrow that two small cars can’t pass at one time. The large fire tenders face problems in reaching such areas, which leads to loss of life and property.

“Another major problem is unauthorised factories and godowns of harmful and inflammable chemicals in such areas. They are hard to locate but very dangerous to the nearby residential areas. The government has banned operating any factory or godown in such residential areas, but in unauthorised colonies it happens everywhere,” Kalpna Jha, councillor from Sangam Vihar, says.

“The major problem with the unauthorised colonies is traffic jams. The roads connecting the areas to main roads are always jam-packed. Encroachment is on in full swing. There is no parking available so people park their cars wherever they find space on the roadside. All these things block traffic. We need at least one straight, broad road which directly connects the colony from the main road,” she adds.

The industrial areas of Delhi are particularly vulnerable. Areas like Narela, Bawana, Madipur, Karmpura often witness major fires.

“Fires often break out at factories and godowns which flout fire security norms. They don’t buy and install enough fire safety equipment, risking the lives of labourers working in the factory. The godown owners also keep inflammable chemicals without proper shelters, which often leads to incidents of fire,” says a senior official with the Delhi Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC).

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