T Nagar – A showcase for plan violations
The recent fire at a high profile retail store in crowded Usman Road area has brought to light the large-scale regulation violations that have taken place over the years. It lays bare the inability of the CMDA and the local authorities to implement their own regulations. It also poses a big question about the validity of the new proposed master plan which is based on more vertical growth in the city, adding to congestion.
Investigations have revealed that there were no fire-safety measures in the building that caught fire. There was no emergency escape and despite this staff was allowed to stay during the night in the building.
The access to the building is along a narrow road which has become steadily narrower due to encroachments and violations by every building in the neighbourhood. It is impossible for police and fire-safety personnel to access any accident site in the vicinity. The fire in question was put out because it happened in the early hours of the morning. Even then water lorries found it impossible to move in, overhead cables prevented the use of skylifts and hoses could not access the interiors owing to the absence of windows. Close proximity of buildings caused the heat to spread thereby resulting in cracks on the walls leading to fears of buildings crumbling. Large signboards and grilles further encumbered the rescue effort.
In the event of a similar fire happening during the day with a number of shoppers coming in, the result would have been catastrophic. There is no doubt that the congestion and violations in T Nagar make it an area extremely vulnerable to any disaster. However what is amazing is that despite all this and more being written about in the popular press, shoppers returned the next day in the usual numbers. Should we put this down to ignorance or the traditional belief of the Chennai-ites that such disasters will not occur to them?