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ISLAMABAD: Three months after a fire gutted a large portion of the weekly market in H-9, the civic authorities have yet to reconstruct the damaged stalls.

Around 550 stalls in Block C, which sells garments, utensils and snacks, among other items, were destroyed in the fire, and 98 stalls in Block H – the shoe market – were also damaged.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) had announced after the fire that it would rebuild the damaged portions of the marketplace, but there have not been any serious developments in the project so far, and the CDA has yet to even call a tender to engage contractors to begin reconstruction.

In the meantime, around 300 vendors have been working out of temporary sheds, while a number still await the reconstruction of their stalls before they can properly restart their businesses.

The civic body had announced that it would rebuild the damaged portions of the marketplace

“The affected stallholders are upset; half of them have started their business slightly, while most of them are still waiting. The reconstruction work has fallen prey to red tape, as the files for construction work are facing delays,” said Malik Asif, the general secretary of the Weekly Bazaars’ Workers Union.

Mr Asif asked the CDA to start work as early as possible, since it will be difficult for vendors to continue working out of makeshift structures during the winter rainy season.

He said that in August, when the fire occurred, the mayor had principally approved Rs400 million in funding, but the file had fallen victim to red tape.

When contactged, CDA Maintenance Director Faisal Raza Gaddi said the file work had been completed and the CDA would begin the process to seek tenders soon.

He said that all 625 stalls will be rebuilt, and affected stallholders will be provided all the facilities.

After the fire, the CDA and the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad had announced that an inquiry would be carried out to determine the cause of fire, and find those responsible. However, no action has been taken so far.

An official from the Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA) said the fire began from a short circuit in a UPS system battery, as DMA staff deployed at the marketplace did not pay attention to the risks involved in the use of UPS systems.

He added that, according to the standard operating procedure, stallholders cannot store their goods in stalls permanently, but had done so in connivance with DMA officials, which caused massive financial loss to stallholders after the fire broke out.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2017