SRINAGAR: City residents are not adhering to building laws, say civic officials, with the highest number of violations being of not maintaining the space between buildings that is vital to controlling and putting out fires.
According to Srinagar Municipality Corporation (SMC) officials, a set norm of at least 10 feet between two structures is crucial for fire management. However this space is seen arbitrarily reduced by almost half in the majority of constructions, while in many cases it almost vanishes.
As per the law, a residential plot of 700 to 1,000 sqft must leave an eight-foot gap before it and six feet behind, with both sides blind. With 1,001 to 1,500 sqft plots, a front gap of 15ft must be provided with an eight-foot gap behind and to one side while the remaining side is blind. Plots measuring 1,501 to 2000 sqft must have a front space of 15ft with 10ft open both behind and to both sides. With 2,001 to 5,000 sqft plots, the front gap must be 20ft with 10ft open on the remaining sides.
An empowered committee may grant relaxation under special circumstances, for example to sites for economically weaker section (EWS) or low-income group (LIG) housing schemes or to schemes for slum clearance and improvement as well as reconstruction of densely populated areas. Plots sub-divided due to family partition are also eligible for consideration, provided their use conforms to the provisions of the master/zonal plans.
As per SMC official Ghulam Mohamad, “We have received more than 30 complaints related to this issue. In Old City, there are a lot of problems as there are old structures and they are not maintaining gap between houses. Sometimes we don’t receive any complain as people solve the matter themselves.
“In case of residential structure, one side could be permitted to remain blind with no set-back if the minimum set-back of 10 ft is provided on the other three sides of the building in the form of semi-detached/row housing,” he added.
However he specified that there must be a 10-ft fire gap between two residential houses.
“The same is the case with the re-erection of internal partitions, provided the same are within the purview of the by-law,” he said. The ground reality in any case cannot be ignored while permitting the structure, after keeping in view the established building line and the predominant land use/de facto position.
Moreover, he said, “In a developing area, we follow the fire gap as per law. When people come here for permission, we first see the land and give permission afterwards.”
Fire and Emergency Services (F&ES) officials are glum over fire management implications in case of a major incident. As per F&ES Joint Director Mohammad Akbar, “This is the biggest problem in Kashmir as residential areas cannot maintain the 10ft fire gap between two residences.”
He added, “In November 2016, a major fire broke out in Buchwara area of Srinagar in which 16 houses were gutted and one person lost his life. In the same year, 13 residential buildings were gutted in Noorbagh, with damage to property worth lakhs of rupees. This happens because there is no fire gap. If there is a gap between two residential houses, then this much of loss cannot happen.”