Karachi’s Fire Safety Crisis

fire safety in Karachi

During a symposium attended by city planners, engineers, and building experts in Karachi on November 22, 2023, a stark revelation emerged: an overwhelming 90% of the city’s structures—residential, commercial, and industrial—lack adequate fire prevention and firefighting systems. This was deemed as “criminal negligence” on the part of regulatory bodies like the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA), posing significant risks to millions of lives in the metropolis. Highlighting national statistics, the experts pointed out that annually, over 15,000 individuals lose their lives and the country suffers financial losses exceeding a trillion rupees due to urban fire accidents. These incidents primarily occur in areas where building structures blatantly violate established regulations. At the National Fire Safety Symposium & Risk-Based Awards organized by the Fire Protection Association of Pakistan (FPAP), experts from across the nation shared insights, emphasizing the urgent need for implementing fire safety laws to save lives.

The symposium served as a platform to discuss challenges posed by the escalating frequency of fire incidents and potential preventive measures. Experts underscored the criticality of adhering to defined building codes, cautioning that the rapid construction of concrete structures without compliance posed severe threats to hundreds of thousands of lives. Urging swift government action, they emphasized the vital role of effective implementation of fire prevention and firefighting laws to avert potential catastrophes. The event witnessed the participation of Sindh’s caretaker Minister for Industries, Commerce, and Revenue, Younus Dagha, and caretaker Minister for Sports, Culture, and Youth Affairs, Dr. Junaid Ali Shah, along with officials from various entities such as the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), Rescue 1122, and corporate sector representatives.

Younus Dagha acknowledged the pressing issue, stating that industrial structures in Sindh, numbering between 30,000 to 40,000, demanded immediate attention, signaling plans to commence fire prevention initiatives starting from Karachi. Dr. Junaid Ali Shah highlighted the alarming lack of firefighting systems in hospitals and educational institutions, stressing that these safety measures were imperative to prevent avoidable damages. Kunwar Wasim, President of FAPF, expressed disappointment at the lethargy of regulatory bodies, emphasizing the non-implementation of crucial fire safety codes. Others echoed these concerns, citing ineffective fire protection equipment and the dire need for stringent certification standards. Fawad Barry from Haseen Habib shed light on the devastating aftermath of fire incidents, including casualties and extensive financial losses across Pakistan.

Acknowledgement: Published in Daily Dawn on November 23, 2023

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