RAWALPINDI, Dec 17: Instead of clamping down on 187 illegal factories in residential areas, the City District Government Rawalpindi (CDGR) has forced their owners to adopt fire safety measures and inadvertently provided them legal cover for their existence.
Under the Local Government Ordinance 2001, no industrial unit can be established or commercial activity carried out in residential areas.
After Karachi’s devastating factory fire that killed at least 300 people and another fire accident in Lahore in September 2012, the Punjab government had asked the district administrations across the province to remove illegal factories from residential areas.
For this purpose, the provincial government formed district committees to deal with relocation issues. The district coordination officer (DCO) was appointed the chairman of the committee and additional district collector (general), Rescue 1122, Civil Defence, and town municipal administrators were made members of the committee.
Rawalpindi’s committee on the issue met here on Monday and it was informed by the members that 90 per cent owners of the 187 illegal factories had adopted fire safety measures and action against the remaining would be launched from Tuesday or Wednesday.
According to a survey conducted by the CDGR, lack of fire safety system and other security arrangements in 187 illegal factories could result in a major tragedy.
These factories are located in thickly-populated areas such as Khayaban-i-Sir Syed, Bangash Colony, Dhoke Dalal, Dhoke Ratta, College Road, Sadiqabad, Glass Factory, Pirwadhai, Asghar Mall and Bagh Sardarn.
These small-scale factories manufacture and prepare goods using chemicals and other inflammable material, but either they did not have firefighting system or had faulty equipment installed.
In a separate report of Rescue 1122 presented to CDGR, the paint and plastic pipe manufacturing small units were described as being most dangerous because fire in such factories cannot be controlled with water.
The Rescue 1122 report also pointed out that many small industrial units had been established in the narrow lanes of the city areas and it is difficult for fire tenders to reach them.
Rawal Town Administrator Saif Anwar Jappa admitted the presence of illegal factories in the residential areas but said they had been directed to enforce safety measures.
When questioned if this would give legal cover to the existence of such facilities, he replied: “It is not possible to remove them so we asked them to adopt fire safety measures to avoid any untoward situation.”
When contacted, DCO Saqib Zafar said the CDGR had imposed a ban on the establishment of small industrial units in residential areas from 2012 onwards.
He said it was difficult to remove all the small industrial units from the residential areas and there was no vacant land outside the city where these units could be relocated.
He claimed that according to CDGR’s department more than 90 per cent owners of small industrial units had installed the fire safety system for the safety of their workers.
“We have adopted these measures till the relocation of these small units outside the city areas,” he said. However, he failed to specify when these units would be moved out.