BENGALURU: In the last two years, 42 fire accidents have taken place in KR Market and the surrounding areas. And every time there is a fire in the area, it takes the fire department authorities way too much time to cover a short distance, thanks to the extremely narrow roads. Krishnarajendra Market (KR Market) and the surrounding areas (also known as the pete area) were developed some 500 years ago during Bengaluru founder Kempegowda’s time. Today it houses at least one lakh shops. The city houses 52 ‘petes’, including Chickpet, Balepet, Mamulpet, Ganigarapet, Nagarthapet, Kumbarpet, and Sulthanpet and unfortunately most of these old commercial hubs are in a pathetic condition.
As per the National Building Code, roads with high rise buildings (taller than 15m) must be wider than 12m. “But most roads in these petes are as narrow as 2m. Forget a fire truck, we cannot even drive a mini vehicle here,’’ a fire officer said.District Fire Officer (North) Siddaraju told Express they attended to 25 fire emergency calls in 2016, while in 2017 it was 17.
“This year, we have received three calls. At least 45 cases were reported in the market and the surrounding area. Some of them had casualties,’’ he said.A senior fire official said the fire department has vehicles with various water storage capacities, which even go up to 16,000 litres. “Whenever we get a call from the market region, we approach the spot from three or more sides. Since the streets are extremely narrow, we often cannot reach the exact location. So we stop the extinguisher at the nearest broad road and draw a long pipe to extinguish a fire in a building. But the longer the pipe, the lesser the pressure,’’ he said, adding that this compromises the effective methods of dousing fires.
GREEDY FOR REAL ESTATE
Another reason why norms are flouted in the area is the skyrocketing real estate price. V Rajesh, a realtor, said that just 15 years ago, one square feet in this are cost `7,000 to `8,000. Today, it costs `1 lakh per square feet in Kumbarpet, Sulthapet and even BVK Iyengar Road.Therefore, while BBMP allows only one storeyed buildings in the region, people build six-storeyed buildings. A senior BBMP official said, “Unfortunately, our engineers are hand-in-glove in this. They know everything, but do nothing.”