Kalbadevi blaze fails to teach authorities; roads still congested

Even after blocked roads slowed down the fire brigade’s response to the deadly blaze in Kalbadevi last month, the authorities have failed to curb illegal parking there; locals want BMC to build pay-and-park facilities nearby to keep roads clear

A month has gone by since the Kalbadevi inferno shook Mumbai, but it seems the authorities have learnt nothing from the disaster. Although a hue and cry was raised over how the crowded, narrow lanes in the area blocked the path for the firefighters, the same roads remain choked with handcarts and haphazardly parked vehicles till date.

Also read: Another Kalbadevi disaster waiting to happen at Fort?

During the Kalbadevi fire last month, the fire brigade had a tough time getting past the congested roads in the area because of haphazard parking. The same roads remain choked with handcarts and illegally parked vehicles to date. Pic/Bipin Kokate
During the Kalbadevi fire last month, the fire brigade had a tough time getting past the congested roads in the area because of haphazard parking. The same roads remain choked with handcarts and illegally parked vehicles to date. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Locals say that the situation is unlikely to change since Kalbadevi lacks proper pay-and-park facilities despite being a busy commercial area. It may be recalled that when the blaze hit Hanuman galli’s Gokul Niwas building on May 9, the fire brigade faced a major roadblock during the rescue mission because of the constricted roads that were further clogged by four and two-wheelers (‘Vehicles parked on narrow roads hampered rescue ops’, mid-day, May 11).

According to official data, it took the fire engines of Memonwada and Fort fire stations 13 minutes to reach the spot, although locals said it had taken much longer than that.

Need parking space
“Nothing is ever going to change in Kalbadevi. It’s a commercial area after all and hundreds of people come here every day for work. The handcarts are also a part of this area’s market. The pay-and-park facility is far off, so people keep parking their vehicles here,” said Mahendra Mishra, a shop owner in Hanuman galli.

The nearest BMC-owned parking lot is located at N S Road, about 5 km from the area, and another is further away on the same road. These have limited capacities anyway, and the nearby private pay-and-park facilities at Kalbadevi are either run illegally or overcharge motorists, pushing many to simply park as they like by the roads.

P B Kapadia, another local shop owner, said that following the fire, the area would be regularly patrolled by the traffic police who would tow away defaulting vehicles. This prevented illegal double and triple parking on either side of the road. However, this too has stopped.

“It is not true that we don't take action against errant vehicles. In fact, our vans patrol the area and remove any double-parked vehicles from there. We also take action against illegally-parked handcarts and tempos. Offenders are fined Rs 100,” said PSI Sunil Katkade, of the Kalbadevi traffic police.

Also read: Why labourers at Kalbadevi's jewellery workshops are sitting ducks in a fire

In the aftermath of the fire, the BMC and fire brigade had also issued notices to errant buildings that lacked firefighting equipment, but some say this is not enough. “The BMC and BEST came and issued notices to defaulting buildings that were not complying with norms for fire equipment.

But what is needed is awareness. 90 per cent of these buildings have loose wires in them. What is needed is that the BEST check the electrical wire boxes outside buildings; that will avert 50 per cent chances of a fire,” said Vinod Agarwal, the owner of a nearby building.

Official speak
According to BMC officials, plans for pay-and-park amenities in the area have been pending since last year. “In case of Kalbadevi, a proposal for creating more pay-and-park facilities was made in 2014.

I think it was initiated by the ward office but did not get the necessary permissions from the traffic police because it never came to us for approval,” said J B Patel, deputy chief engineer at the BMC’s Roads and Traffic department.

Parking woes
C Ward has only two BMC-owned pay-and-park facilities, both on N S Road. One is near Parsi Gymkhana and the other is near the eastern side, near the Hindu Gymkhana. Not only are these too far from Kalbadevi, they also have limited capacities, making it all the more urgent that new parking grounds be set up in the area.

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