Water crisis renders 4,000 fire hydrants ineffective

Barely a week after a major inferno engulfed Mantralaya and left a trail of destruction, including claiming five lives, MiD DAY discovers that around 4,000 fire hydrants (FH) installed across the city would only be able to afford a trickle in the event of a fire because of low water pressure. The city is currently facing water crisis because of the delayed monsoon and has been forced to endure 20 per cent water cut, leaving the supply lines with low pressure.

Of the 4,000 hydrants, eight are located on the premises of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). Besides low water pressure, many of these hydrants are in a state of neglect, hidden under debris or plants and not marked for easy identification in the time of need. The city’s network of fire hydrants are rigged to provide the fire brigade with uninterrupted water supply while controlling major fires, but these are not functioning efficiently due to the shortage.

Each FH is connected to the main water supply line and is designed to carry water under high pressure to douse fires. A visit to several spots in peth areas, including Bhawani, Guruwar, and Mangalwar, to study the conditions revealed that many of the FHs were hidden under garbage piles and plants and though some were marked, locating them in an emergency would take some effort. The situation is similar at the PMC main building, where eight FHs are located, but a majority of these are not easily accessible or in proper working order.

Trickling in: Hydrants are neglected and difficult to locate; (circled) FH marks the spot where a hydrant is supposed to be. Pic/Vivek Sabnis

PMC’s Chief Fire Officer Prashant Ranpise, said, “Yes, the problem is grave due to the present water crisis in the city. In spite of a small team, we make a thorough check of all the FHs in the city at least once a year. FHs at the PMC main building will be replaced by new hi-tech ones in a revised fire control plan. The new FHs will be installed 20 metres apart on the premises along with a backup of 1.5 lakh litres of water in an underground tank. We are spending Rs 1.68 crore for the project.”

Ranpise added that water can be made available to these hydrants in the event of a fire. “In case of contingency, the fire brigade first has to inform the Swargate Water Supply Department to release water to the area where a fire has begun,” Ranpise said.  V G Kulkarni, executive engineer, Water Supply, PMC, said that the fire brigade has other options. “We have enforced a 20 per cent water cut especially during the morning. The fire brigade can use the ‘wash out’ valves available in each area,” he said.  Rajaram Ghadshi, supervisor, Fire Brigade, PMC, said, “It is difficult to manage and check each and every FH outlet in the city. It is difficult for us to manage this work considering there are 4,000 FHs in the city.” 

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