Julie Mariappan, TNN Jul 17, 2011, 04.55am IST CHENNAI :
None of the 38 commercial establishments on Ranganathan Street in T Nagar, which violated building rules and safety norms, has responded to the show-cause notices issued by the Fire and Rescue Services.
This was disclosed by the Fire and Rescue Service, Chennai south division, in reply to an RTI application filed by V S Jayaraman, secretary, Motilal Street Residents Welfare Association. A safety audit conducted by the department in 2009 found that 90% of the buildings on Ranganathan Street had violated building norms, including fire safety rules.
The department is unable to issue fire licences because of the lack of fire and safety measures. “In the absence of stringent legal provisions, traders and builders are not spending a few lakhs of rupees for fire safety,” the divisional fire officer said in his reply. As the Fire and Rescue Services have no power to seal the building that defies the rules, the Chennai Corporation and Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority were asked to take action against those who failed to respond to the show-cause notices. Meanwhile, the local community is irked over the traders’ defiance of the rules. “Instead of shirking its responsibility by saying that the traders failed to respond to notices, the department should have initiated stern action against them,” said V S Jayaraman. The residents have been waging a war against unauthorized commercial developments for the last two decades, but to no avail. In 2006, the Madras high court cited lack of fire safety measures in unauthorized buildings as one of the reasons for striking down the erstwhile DMK government’s regularization schemes for unauthorized structures.
The waiver of requirements of a side setback will make it impossible for a fire engine to fight a fire in a high-rise building. The waiver of requirements regarding fire staircase and other fire prevention and fire-fighting measures would seriously endanger the occupants, resulting in the building becoming a veritable death trap. In the RTI reply, however, the officer said various measures were taken to prevent fire and minimize the response time in the congested area. Shop owners were informed about the deficiencies in fire and life safety arrangements in their premises and this arrangement is partially addressing some of the problems in most of the commercial buildings, the officer said. The department has set up a new fire station at T Nagar, with one more fire unit and 17 fire fighters.
In its meeting on Friday, the high court-appointed monitoring committee directed the Chennai Corporation to hold public consultations on its proprosed T Nagar re-development plan to decongest the area.