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Open wires: the spark plugs for fires in Walled City

Fire department records say Old Delhi made more than 650 calls of fire between March 2008 and March 2009. The figure gives out the story of how tangled the Walled City is in its maze of loose wiring.

Fire department records say Old Delhi made more than 650 calls of fire between March 2008 and March 2009.

The figure gives out the story of how tangled the Walled City is in its maze of loose wiring.

In fact,fire department officials say,90 per cent of these fires are triggered by such loose wires,and their contact with residential and commercial structures. Though the fires seldom turn big,they are frequent enough to constantly keep the residents and shopkeepers on their toes.

The recently activated Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRC) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s (MCD) plans to take all electric wires and cables underground,meanwhile,hangs in air. The electric poles in the Walled City carry thick high-tension cables,loosely hanging and old withered wires,telephone and TV cable wires and several others.

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These are wound together in ways that give them strange shapes and people living around a vulnerability.

Mohammad Shakir,47,a medical storeowner,has a big lump of loosely hanging wires just outside the counter. Every time it rains,Shakir nervously waits for a short-circuit: “I tie these wires all the time — sometimes they touch the ground. But that does not worry us: every time it rains,we keep looking for sparks in the wires and waits for another news of fire.”

In Coffee Corner,a small restaurant in busy Chandni Chowk,Noor Hussain,15,leans from the railing to point out where the short-circuit takes place — almost every week. Outside,there is a maze of wires and Hussain’s finger points to a half-molten cable,rough and disfigured. “Every time it rains,there is surely a short-circuit in these cables.”


Spark unplugged
According to the fire department,SP Marg received 318 calls of fire between March last year and this year; Daryaganj had 123 calls.

“Overhead loose wires are a big cause of fires; in fact most blazes take place because of them. Delhi Fire Services director A K Sharma says. “After the fire at Sadar Bazar,the court had asked for all wiring to be done underground but it has not been done yet.”

An electric pole stands against the wall next to the only window in 12-year-old Nandita’s home in Chandni Chowk. As she walks over to the window,her mother Renu Sharma scolds her. “I am afraid because of the huge lump of wires,” she explains. “Sparks come out almost every week.”


Nandita still comes over to the window but only when her mother is asleep,or has stepped out of the house.

Project underground
And as the sparks keeping flying off regularly,the project for making wirings for the Walled City has still not started. Power distribution company BSES had earlier submitted a proposal to Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation for electrification of the Walled City.

The discom said it could use hi-tech equipment for micro-tunneling and trenching to move infrastructure,such as overhead high-tension and distribution wires,underground.

The MCD,which was formulating its Jama Masjid plan,had then criticised SRC saying it was interfering in the municipality’s job.

MCD said it,too,was thinking of getting all wires underground. A year on,the wires still hang open and the fires still light up almost every week.


“It will happen soon but it is still under the process of being sanctioned,” MCD spokesperson Deep Mathur says. “We will soon carry out the plan.”

The locals are keeping their fingers crossed.

First published on: 08-09-2009 at 01:02:24 am
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