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Home » Karachi

All high-rise buildings face serious safety threat: moot told

December 7, 2016

KARACHI: All commercial and high-rise buildings in Karachi have been facing serious safety threat as no law is present, which could envisage setting up a central regulatory body for implementing mandatory regulations and measures to cope with any fire or similar life-threatening emergency situation.

Speaking at a press conference here on Wednesday, representatives of concerned non-governmental organizations said that at present only chapter 13 and 14 of Karachi Building and Town Planning Regulations-2002 provided fire safety rules for buildings in the city but utility, relevance, and effectiveness of these regulations had become too much limited.

The concerned NGOs’ representatives said that situation regarding implementation of fire safety laws had been more and less same in the entire country where no central regulatory body existed to act for this cause as only exception was that of the federal capital where a proper safety law had been adopted in the form of “The Islamabad fire prevention and life safety Regulations-2010”.

Naeem Qureshi, president of National Forum for Environment and Health, said that presence of a number of agencies like provincial Disaster Management Authority and Civil Defence Organization had not been leading the situation to improvement regarding adoption of fire safety measures by multi-storeyed buildings.

He said that a central fire safety authority should be established, which effectively dealt with all affairs related to safety of buildings in the city. He said that Sindh Building Control Authority had not been discharging its obligations in an effective manner as it had been continuously allowing construction of high-rise buildings in the city without observing due safety measures.

He said that government should announce financial compensation for bereaved families who had lost their near and dear ones in the Hotel Regent Plaza tragedy as those who had been affected by the fire tragedy included doctors and people associated with other noble professions.

He said that before Regent Plaza incident, Karachi had witnessed massive fire tragedies like Baldia factory, Timber Market, Bolton market, as on an average 30 incidents took place in Karachi in a year causing loss of lives and heavy damage to property and infrastructure wasting millions of rupees, but the city’s authorities concerned had not been doing the needful act.

Advocate M Nadeem A Shaikh, president of Justice Helpline, lamented that his NGO working in the judicial and legal domains had authored some two years back a proper set of fire safety law titled as “Karachi Fire Service Act-2015” with support of former chief fire officer in Karachi Syed Kazim Ali but the law proposed by him had yet to be adopted by the concerned governmental authorities.

The proposed Karachi Fire Service Act proposed a central regulatory mechanism and fire service to deal with all fire safety and prevention measures for buildings built in all parts of the city irrespective of jurisdiction of the area whether it should be with any of the several land controlling agencies of Karachi.

Advocate Shaikh said that recent fire tragedy at Hotel Regent Plaza had once again highlighted the need that an effective fire safety law should be adopted for the city like the one proposed by him and its adoption should be done by the City Council as Karachi Metropolitan Corporation had again been revived and working under an elected mayor.

He said that a regulatory mechanism should be put in place, which should envisage and implement a strict penal system for imposing fines and decreeing other punishments for owners of high-rise and commercial buildings, which didn’t observe proper safety rules. The proposed central fire safety services and regulatory body should work under the KMC being sole municipal authority of the city.

Gulzar Memon, a retired chief engineer at Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, said that electrical inspectors should strictly do their visits and impose fines and punishments on the buildings whose owners didn’t put in order their domestic electrical systems in order to prevent any fire and other disastrous emergency situation.

He said that recent tragedy of Hotel Regent Plaza had highlighted the fact that mere doing visits on annual basis and issuing warning notices to management of commercial buildings didn’t produce desire results as the building owners were in the practice of maintaining the status-quo regarding adoption of safety and rectification measures thus endangering the lives of occupants and users of numerous unsafe buildings. Engr Nadeem Ashraf of NFEH, Shariq Ali, Nadeem Siddiqui of consumers Association of Pakistan, Saleem Michael of Christian help line also attended press conference

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