It happened in Thane and it could well happen here. The only thing that can save occupants in high-rises of height 90 meters and above is vigilance. Do not let builders and ill-equipped fire brigade department make you victims of any disaster. The concern emerges because NMMC is not equipped to reach above a height of 70 meters in fire incidents, yet the civic body has given NOC to builders constructing towers of 90 meters and above. On our weekend exclusive, we studied the ground reality that confirms fears that buyers buying property in towers above 90 meters will be doing so completely at their own risk. The Thane fire incident expose was an eye opener. Forget victims, the firemen could not save themselves but did we learn anything from it at all? This question comes to the mind when you look at these two high-rise towers being built in Navi Mumbai. M/s Swaraj Builders and Developers’s high rise tower Queen’s Bay, Plot no. 72 in Sector 14, Koperkhairane and M/s Kesar Group’s high rise tower Kesar Solitaire, Plot no 5 in Sector 19, Sanpada. And if you ask “why”, then the answer is that each of these towers is above 90 meters i.e. above 32 floors while NMMC fire brigade does not even have a skylift that reaches these towers. The high rise tower built by Swaraj Builders and Developer’s in Sector 14, Koperkhairane is 91.5 meters and the one built by Kesar Group in Sector 19, Sanpada is 92.5 meters. In such a scenario, it can easily be understood that the lives of occupants living in these towers might even be a fatal risk. At the NMMC Town Planning Office, the Asst. Director of Town Planning, Sanjay Banait informed us that they do not give permission to high-rises without a No Objection Certificate from the Fire Brigade. Sanjay Banait explains that the fire dept. knows the height of the tower they can protect or cannot protect. It’s only after their NOC than the town planning issues commencement certificate to any builder. We then visited the NMMC Fire Brigade at Vashi. Here we found out that at present NMMC does not even have the sky lift that can reach 70 meters in its possession. In fact the proposal to buy a Bronto Sky Lift of Volvo Company that can reach up to 70 meters with an aerial ladder platform was tabled in the Standing Committee meeting of February 2008 and is expected to be delivered only by March 2010. That means that the NMMC Fire Brigade issued NOCs to builders to erect high rise towers of above 90 meters even before it had a sky lift to reach up to 70 meters. At the Vashi Fire Brigade, we spoke to Dy. Fire Officer Prabhakar Gadhe. His responses to our concerns were shocking. Our question was simple – if fire was reported in any of these towers above the 25th floor, how would his firemen rescue victims stuck in fire when their sky lift won’t go reach above 25 floors of the building. The officer lamely replied that they will tackle it. When we asked him to logically explain “how he’ll manage?”, he got bugged and said that the height of the sky-lift with ladder is different from the permission they give. While Prabhakar Gadhe’s casual approach shocked us, social activist Sandeep Thakur says that his personal experience is that they are casual about everything. He added that if the capacity and height have no relation, then why give height at all in the first place. Sandeep Thakur says that the NOC that the fire brigade issues will make anyone laugh. After this we met the builders making the controversial high rise towers. Well you can’t expect ethical practices from builders but we still met the men-in-charge of Swaraj Builders and Kesar Group. We questioned them if NMMC does not have a sky lift to reach over 25 floors, by constructing towers of over 30 floors, weren’t they putting the lives of occupants at risk if a fire was to occur. Both the builders gave the repetitive reply that they are going to provide fire fighting equipments on all the floors. But residents who are already living in high-rise buildings know better than trusting builders. While others voiced no confidence at all in the fire brigade services. And if there a fire was to occur in high rise during power cut, then only God can save the victims, say residents. Social activist Sandeep Thakur says hat NMMC should not have issued permission to these towers. All residents too echoed the same. While another said that there was another way to retort to the negligence that the NMMC fire brigade is demonstrating and to builders who only think of profits. They say don’t buy property in such risky towers, builders will automatically not build them. In the name of development, unchecked high rise towers have come up in the city. The more the floors of these high rises, the bigger is the worry as due to the absence of a sky lift and gross violations of fire safety norms, grave dangers loom over these towers during fire incidents. Now it is up to the buyers to be vigilant else they will become victims of the unholy nexus of politicians, authorities and selfish builders.
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