Linking Road in Bandra is known not just as a bargain hunter’s haven, but also for its congested streets and crowded buildings. Yesterday, a fire broke out in just one such cramped shopping mall, allegedly housing more shops than it has a permit for. On arriving there, firemen discovered that the building did not even have fire fighting equipment, and gas cylinders were being kept against regulations in the basement.
In fact, as this paper had reported last year, it was at the same mall that the basement parking was blocked because an illegal shop had been set up in the car lift. Such instances raise several questions. Do such buildings even possess the basic permits? Were fire audits carried out there and was any action taken if irregularities were found?
It is fortunate that no lives were lost in the Bandra blaze, but we have only to look to the Kalbadevi inferno that took pace on May 9 to recall how lethal an issue this is. At Kalbadevi as well, the building and the surrounding area were found to be overcrowded by encroachments, lacking any fire fighting precautions.
Such buildings are nothing but death traps, and will cause major casualties if people are caught in a fire inside. The exits in many buildings are narrow, not because they were designed so, but because they have been encroached upon by illegal shops. The buildings do not hold much space for parking, since shops have come up in the basement as well. This leads to parking on the streets, not leaving much room for evacuations or even for the fire brigade to manoeuvre, in case of a fire.
The time has come for the BMC to seriously rethink its policies and ensure that projects are only allowed to be built if they fulfil all safety norms. At the end of the day, if these changes are not made, Mumbai stands to lose its own residents and firefighters to fire tragedies.