In Delhi there has been a substantial increase in population and industrialization, since Independence. Well over 1,50,000 small scale industrial units in identified industrial units in identified industrial pockets (in addition to industries running illegally), over 1200 J.J. Clusters providing shelter to nearly one third of the population and over 3.5 million automotive vehicles have choked infrastructural services. The fast increased has not been planned for.
Master Plan for Delhi, had been created as an instrument to control the use of land in urban area and protect the welfare of people. The concept of zoning has not yielded desirable results over and above allowing for mixed use and occupancy, authorized as well as unauthorized. Banquet halls in residential areas, cottage industries in congested areas, trade of hazardous chemicals from the highly congested residential/commercial areas, hazardous and non hazardous industries in close vicinity are few to menmtion which have further deteriorated environemental services. This has certainly added to the fire risk already inherited by a particular occupancy. As a result losses due to fire are increasing to both the life and property. This is developing a dangerous trend. Man-made disasters are likely in these areas.
Lal Kuan tragedy that claimed 58 lives has not fixed from our memories. Zoning and mixed use planning is a vital part of urban design. However, it can fail through abuse, misuse, and resistance to changes in urban pattern essential for the general welfare of the population. The price , which is being paid, is high. It needs to be understood, appreciated and accepted that the solution to complex problems is not always simple and widely acknowledged . Many a times they are complex, hard and unpopular in a democratic setup.
The recent fire incident data as provided in the table can provide a clear assessment of the fire incidents in Delhi and their increase. In order to contain these rising trends, sometimes hard unpopular decisions need to be taken. However, unpopular these decisions could be, they are the need of the hour and shall have to be taken at the earliest.
Details of total fire calls and loss etc. in Delhi
Occupancy wise breakup
||No. of calls
|| JJ Cluster
| High Rise
|| 168 (5856)
|| 180 (17286)
|| 150 (10201)
|| 168 (9634)
|| 163 (4557)
|| 150 (5639)
|| 173 (5277)
|| 130 (2891)
|| 115 (1985)
|| 108 (5820)
Although the number of calls have only marginally increased, number of deaths have increased potentially. The basic reason is that deaths are not as much due to burning but more because of inhalation of toxic fumes, which get concentrated in high density less open space area. It is the lack of circulation/ventilation within tenements. In industrial areas there is disrespect for the safety measures required and hence large numner of deaths or injury due to fires occur.
Number of fire incidents in jhuggis and jhopairs clusters/high-rise buildings have reduced while fire incidents in industrial and residential areas have increased. One of the reason for such increase is, that industrial areas have started hosting non-confirming industries and residential areas have become haven for illegal storage's and dangerous commercial activities in pursuit of mixed permitting land and occupancy in these areas. Also, disrespect to circulation space and open space and increase in congestion in these areas have caused poor accessibility to the place of tragic incidence, which takes only records to increase.
If the number of incidents of fires is carefully studied area wise in Delhi maximum percent of calls of fire incidents have been received in Shahdra, in the east division, Janakpuri (west division), Moti Nagar (northwest),Connaught Circus (central) , Roopnagar and Nehru Place in South Delhi. The reason is congestion and illegal storage of recycling material and chemicals.
If we analyze the causes of maximum number of fires in Delhi 70 percent of calls are due to electric short circuiting. This is alarming because a single cause can be disastrous to life and property that major investments are required mitigating these risks.