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Deonar fire: Corporators oppose use of potable water for firefighting

Each 12,000-litre tanker made more than 90 rounds to douse flames in January.

Written by Arita Sarkar | Mumbai |
March 23, 2016 12:40:31 am
mumbai, mumbai fire, deonar fire, mumbai dumping ground fire, mumbai deonar fire, fire in mumbai, mumbai dump fire, mumbai news Fire at Deonar dumping Ground on Sunday. Express Photo

GIVEN the current water crisis, the copious amounts of water being used to douse the fire at the Deonar dumping ground has attracted severe criticism from elected corporators.

About 12 fire engines and water tankers have been stationed at the Deonar dumping ground for the last two days to douse the fire that broke out on March 19. These tankers have been refilled repeatedly. In the last major fire at the dumping ground in January, 12,000-litre tankers made more than 90 rounds to refill water.

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Leader of the BMC House and Shiv Sena corporator Trushna Vishwasrao questioned the BMC for the use of drinking water. “The BMC keeps saying there is a water crisis. Then why is so much potable water being wasted in firefighting when water from the creek can be used for the same purpose,” she asked.

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According to civic officials, the BMC had earlier proposed using non-potable water in firefighting operations, which was opposed by the fire department. “Fire officials said non-potable water would react with the metal of the tanker and reduce its life. We thus purchased nine new tankers, which can fill non-potable water directly from the pumping station and be used in fire-fighting operations,” said an official. These water tankers, however, will arrive in batches and it will be months before all of them are put to use.

Civic chief Ajoy Mehta also announced other ideas, including borewell water, for use in firefighting, but this would be a long-drawn process of locating spots and digging borewells.

Meanwhile, corporators from the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the MNS staged a walkout during the Standing Committee meeting on Tuesday in protest against the BMC’s inability to handle the Deonar fire. Congress corporator Pravin Chheda demanded the committee meeting be adjourned in protest.

The corporators’ common view was that the fire was an act of sabotage. “The dumping grounds have been around for years and methane gas is not a new phenomenon. Then why are so many fires being caused now,” asked Manoj Kotak of the BJP.

Appealing for improved quality of life for the lakhs of people living near the dumping ground, SP corporator Rais Shaikh blamed the police for not making arrests. “It has been two months and not a single arrest has been made. We are even ready to keep vigil in Baba Nagar but the BMC has to take the issue seriously,” he said. He demanded that the footage from the CCTV cameras installed by the BMC be presented to the standing committee and declared trucks would not be allowed to enter Deonar if the fires were not dealt with.

Meanwhile, Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam demanded closure of the Mulund and Deonar grounds. “If the BMC doesn’t take steps to prevent further fires and stop dumping, we will hold a morcha at Deonar on March 26,” he said.

Mehta said access to the dumping ground would be restricted and closely monitored. “The trucks dumping garbage at Deonar will all be weighed and they will have to record check-in and check-out,” he said. He said as per the directions of the Bombay HC, a DCP would also be appointed to overlook the matters of the Deonar ground. Mehta said monthly meetings would be conducted to monitor progress on the work at the ground and reports submitted in the Standing Committee meeting.

‘Contract was full of discrepancies’

A demand for an SIT probe into the contract allotted for the Deonar ground was raised in the legislature on Tuesday. Congress legislator Aslam Shaikh alleged that there was a link between the fire and the contract, which ended in June. He alleged the contract was “full of discrepancies”. Meanwhile, some BJP MLAs sat on the stairs of Vidhan Bhavan in protest against the issue.

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