Business Recorder
‘Fire, Rescue and Emergency Planning Authority’ proposed

‘Fire, Rescue and Emergency Planning Authority’ proposed

N H Zuberi

KARACHI: Muhammad Jawed Bilwani, chief coordinator of Karachi Industrial Forum (KIF) and chairman of Pakistan Apparel Forum has urged the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to establish ‘Fire, Rescue and Emergency Planning Authority’ in the larger interest of Karachi City and the Karachiites.

In a letter to the chief minister, he sought his attention and intervention towards burning need to revamp the Karachi Fire Brigade Department to an empowered Karachi Fire, Rescue and Emergency Planning Authority that should function, independently.

He said that Karachi Fire Brigade Department is responsible to provide fire brigade and emergency services in the 18 towns of 6 districts of Karachi through 22 Fire Stations, however, since creation of the country, the Fire and Rescue has remained a low-priority and neglected area of successive governments. Numerous big fire incidents in Karachi, in the past, had destroyed properties of citizens worth billions of rupees.

“The incumbent department lacks resources such as needed fire-fighting equipment and trained human resource and modern rescue machinery due to which Karachi lost many precious lives of citizens and fire fighters,” he said, adding that the Government of Sindh is the competent authority to reform Karachi Fire Department and revamp it on modern lines for protection of lives and property of citizens.

He said that Karachi is the largest metropolitan city having more than 15000 large medium and small industries in seven industrial zones. He said the population of Karachi is over 25 million. Being the largest industrial nucleus of Pakistan Karachi also maintains the highest export share, highest foreign exchange earnings and generates around 54 percent revenue in the form of direct taxes for the national exchequer.

“Industries of Karachi also provide highest employment to 1.5 million labour force, directly and another 1.5 million, indirectly, through allied sectors/vending workers,” he said, adding that the city also generates 95 percent revenue for the province of Sindh, as well.

He said that the Sindh government in its financial budget 2016-17 allocated only Rs.10 billion for Karachi, nevertheless, the Karachi Fire Department failed to attract deserving attention for long-awaited development. God forbid, in case of any big fire incidents at two places simultaneously, the existing Fire Brigade cannot handle the situation leading to a complete chaos and disaster.

He said this department is currently working under Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) which has faced various ups and downs and could not succeed to deliver results up to the satisfaction of Karachiites amid political wrangling and other challenges amid lack of willingness to create and implement a modern and practical master plan of Karachi.

Therefore, Bilwani advised that his proposed Fire, Rescue and Emergency Planning Authority, should function as an empowered authority, independently. He said nowadays, is on the verge of collapse and any adverse situation in the city could lead to a complete disaster.

“There are 22 Fire Stations but out of 48 Fire Fighting Vehicles (Fire Tenders), only 16 are in working on road,” he said, adding that of 32 fire fenders, 18 have major faults while remaining 14 have minor faults. Similarly only 8 out of total 21 Special Units comprising snorkels, foam units, water bouzers, tankers, cranes, are operational. Out of 3 snorkels only 1 is functioning but that too in a dilapidated condition. 13 special units are faulty and hence are not operational.

He said that the existing fire tenders and special units were purchased in 1995 and 1997, respectively. They have gone through extensive repair and maintenance and hence worn out and must be replaced with new fire tenders and modern equipment.

Bilwani said that currently, fire tenders allocated to the Central Fire Station out of 3 fire tenders only 1 is working, in Saddar out of 4 fire tenders only 1 is working, at Nazimabad out of 4 only 1 is working, Lyari has 1 in working condition, in SITE out of 3 fire tenders 2 are on road, at Korangi out of 3 fire tenders only 1 is operational, in Landhi out of 3 only 1 is working, Gulistan-e-Mustafa out of two vehicles only 1 is working, Orangi Town has 2 faulty fire tenders, in Shah Faisal’s 3 fire tenders, only 1 is on road, in Manzoor Colony 1 fire tender is working, in North Karachi 3 fire tenders but none of them work, in Baldia Town only 1 vehicle that too is faulty, in ERC 1 in working condition, at New Truck Stand no fire tender available, in Bolton Market only 1 fire tender available on road, in Gulistan-e-Jauhar’s 3 fire tenders only 1 is working, in Cattle Colony 1 vehicle given but that too is faulty, Civic Centre has only 1 fire tender but not working, in Malir’s 5 fire tenders, not a single is working, in Gulshan-e-Iqbal’s 2 fire tenders only 1 is working, and in Maymar 1 fire tender is in working condition.

The KIF chief coordinator said that presently, only 4 out of 11 special units (Snorkels, Bouzers, Foam Unit) at the Central Fire Station are working, in SITE’s 2, both are non-functional, in Korangi 1 special unit in working condition, in Landhi too, 1 special unit in working condition, in Gulistan-e-Mustafa all 3 units are faulty, in ERC, the only special unit is not working, KMC Building has 1 special unit in working condition, 1 standby unit is also working there.

He said that to handle fire due to oil or chemical not a single separate foam unit is available in the Karachi port city which supplies oil to upcountry destination and having largest number of oil and fuel pumps and storage houses. Even to rescue citizens in fire incidents in high-rise buildings no rescue units with high-stretched ladders available, he lamented.

He further expressed concern that water connections are available to only 8 of total 22 fire stations viz. Central Fire Station, Nazimabad, Lyari, Korangi, Landhi (not daily), Gulistan-e-Mustafa, Orangi Town and North Karachi whereas water connections are not available in remaining 14 fire stations viz. Saddar, SITE, Shah Faisal, Manzoor Colony, Baldia Town, ERC Hawkesbay, New Truck Stand, Bolton Market, Gulistan-e-Johar, Cattle Colony, Civic Centre, Malir, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gulshan-e-Maymar.

Likewise, he said, water reserve tankers are available only at 12 fire stations: Central, Saddar, Nazimabad, Lyari, SITE, Korangi, Landhi, Gulistan-e-Mustafa, Orangi, Manzoor Colony, North Karachi and ERC Hawkesbay and no water tanks available at Shah Faisal, Baldia Town, New Truck Stand, Bolton Market, Gulistan-e-Johar, Cattle Colony, Civic Centre, Malir, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gulshan-e-Maymar.

Bilwani said that to cope with emergency situations 24/7 and 365 days, residence for fire fighters were established in 11 fire stations namely Central, Saddar, Nazimabad, Lyari, S.I.T.E., Korangi, Landhi, Gulistan-e-Mustafa, Orangi Town, Manzoor Colony and North Karachi.

“Karachi City also lacks emergency hydrants to provide water in case of fire incidents. Likewise, it is an irony that not a single fire station in Karachi has its own hydrant,” he said, indicating that the Fire Brigade Department also lacks centralized monitoring and control system to oversight the fire-fighters, fire station activities and available machinery on daily basis.

He said that the formation of a centralized monitoring system is inevitable to connect all fire-stations on real-time basis. Currently, he said, no surveillance was available to monitor the resident fire-fighters whether they are actually residing at all the respective fire stations or not, and whether the said premises is used by someone else. Likewise, water connections, tanks, equipment, fire tenders are required to be inspected on regular basis.

He said that lack of funds was main constraint in equipping the fire services and providing adequate fire safety cover to the population in a uniform manner.

KIF chief coordinator said that fire is a State subject but placed with the Municipal Corporations in Pakistan. He said the Directorate General of Civil Defence under Federal Interior Ministry is the nodal office responsible for providing advisories on fire prevention, fire protection, fire legislation and training related matters. He said that fire services across Pakistan are generally ill-organized and ill-equipped. He said the governments around the world have established Fire Authority or Fire and Rescue Authority, under law as statutory body, to tackle emergency situation efficiently and professionally. He cited that in Pakistan, the Punjab government established an authority namely “Rescue-1122”, under Punjab Emergency Act 2006, to tackle emergencies such as fire and rescue services and community safety program.

“Therefore, aforementioned sad and shocking state of affairs in Karachi demands immediate cognizance by the Sindh government to establish Karachi Fire, Rescue and Emergency Planning Authority with necessary legislation, on war-footing basis,” he urged.

Bilwani proposed that every city must have its own Fire, Rescue and Emergency Planning Authority and it should be independent.

The proposed Authority in Karachi should be established with necessary legislation with all appointments on merit and it must not be politicized in any case.

KIF chief coordinator said that authority may have the representatives in the Board of Directors from Government of Sindh, Home Department, Civil Defence, representatives from other relevant departments, representatives from private sector and stakeholders such as Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, leading associations and all industrial town associations of Karachi.

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