Three years after the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) began assisting the BMC in fighting disasters in the city, it is yet to be allotted a permanent base. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of the Ministry of Home Affairs had recommended in 2012 that teams of the NDRF should be placed in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai to assist the local governments to ward off Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) disasters.
Two years since, both the BMC and NDRF continue to scout for locations for a permanent base. The search intensified last summer after a spate of building collapses in Thane and Mumbai claimed several lives, to which the NDRF could respond only a couple of hours later from their base on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. At present, two teams of the NDRF have been based at Andheri Sports Complex. This is the fourth monsoon in which the force will have a presence in the city.
A number of locations in Mankhurd, Vikhroli, Kandivali and Borivali have been offered in the past year, but none were found suitable, said NDRF officers. Most of the locations offered were parts of existing fire brigade offices.
At present, the BMC has offered an unused and dilapidated barrack in Borivali West.
“The barracks are in bad shape and construction will take some time, but the site is almost finalised,” said Alok Avasthy, Commandant, 5th Battalion, NDRF. The plot however, has been allotted for a civilian training centre, and the BMC is proceeding cautiously.
“We are discussing how to navigate this situation. To allot this plot as a base for the NDRF would be to breach the Development Control Rules,” said Mahesh Narvekar, head of the BMC’s Disaster Management Cell.
Narvekar said that location searching was underway, and the Borivali site was not final.
“The NDRF wants an entire structure to itself to set up living quarters for officers and personnel. The structure should also have a mess hall. Apart from this, they want parking space and an open ground to exercising. Acquiring so much land in Mumbai is very difficult. That said, the NDRF is in Mumbai at our invitation and we will find a suitable place for them to set up base,” he said.