According to official statements the buildings are constructed in violation of all norms, writes G.V.Prasada Sarma
That only two of the 94 kalyanamantapams have fire safety equipment and parking comes as a rude shock. For people who keep going to the mantapams or function halls for one occasion or the other the poor record should serve as a reminder of the state of affairs and the lurking danger.
The manner in which the buildings are constructed, going by official statements, is in violation of all norms. Ninety per cent of the kalyanamantapams have no building plan approval. Several of them have no parking space.
Beside an existing kalyanamantapam another two-storeyed mantapam was constructed without plan, fire safety equipment or parking. In another case, permission was obtained for godown and kalyanamantapam constructed.
The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation is now taking a tough stand that unless fire safety measures are taken kalyanamantapams can not be run.
The city’s image as a fast growing one will be hit if one incident occurs. Besides, not having parking at function halls will lead to inconvenience and hardship to people.
Clear guidelines have been laid down by the State Government in GO 154 of 2007 for construction of the mantapams, schools, hospitals, cinema theatres and malls.
Fire safety in hospitals has also come under the scanner of GVMC after the devastating fire in AMRI Hospital in Kolkata that claimed 100 lives. But the compliance subsequent to the inspections carried is not clear and data is still being obtained by GVMC.
In the case of schools, the record is no better.
According to civic officials for each of the establishments, the GO has laid down different guidelines. But schools are being run in apartments without any fire safety measures.
According to GVMC Regional Fire Officer S.V. Narasimham, schools should have two staircases and if there are 45 students two exits for a room. But only 300 of the 3,000 schools in the city complied with fire safety norms. Minimum fire safety was most essential, he said pointing out that it took 10 hours for 16 fire engines to put out the fire in a footwear showroom at Dwarakanagar.
In view of decorative illumination and overdrawing wiring system, care should be taken to avoid short-circuit. Mr. Narasimham said a survey taking into account 10 years of statistics showed that 48 per cent of fire accidents were caused by short circuit. Also an inspection of 30 buildings showed that 50 per cent of fire-fighting equipment is not functioning. So it is also important to see that the devices work.
While fire spreads in minutes, smoke spread quicker and generally it is the smoke that kills.
Several of those present at an awareness meeting conducted by GVMC last week stated that the buildings were constructed long time back and no parking norms were insisted upon at that time. However, City Planning officials said for three, four decades now 20 per cent of the built up area is mandated as parking space.
After 2007, it was increased to 33 per cent and in Hyderabad up to 50 per cent.
When it comes to initiating fire safety equipment several of those present expressed willingness to comply but do not know how to do it or what is the fire-fighting required.
Though there appears to be a go-slow approach on parking, even it has to be complied with in course of time. If those running the facilities, particularly the mantapams, lease spaces government’s permission would be obtained. Alternately, two, three organisations may come together to have common parking.
An inspection of 30 buildings showed that 50 per cent of fire-fighting equipment is not functioning, says fire officer