Nepal | May 27, 2020

EDITORIAL: Rising fire risks

The Himalayan Times
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Incidents of fire have occurred more recently as people have started storing highly inflammable products such as petrol, diesel and kerosene inside their houses

The 41 years data of the Home Ministry show that incidents of fire are the fourth largest fatal disaster in the country after epidemics, landslides and floods. The Home Ministry has stated that as many as 40 people are killed and property worth Rs. 350 million reduced to a cinder every year due to fire in cities and villages across the country. It is also reported that more than 1,500 incidents of fire are recorded that does not include the wildfires that destroy large swaths of forests during the dry season between April-May. Many minor cases of fire go unreported as such fires are doused by the people themselves. Only the bigger cases of fires that engulf entire communities come to the knowledge of the concerned ministry. Short-circuit, overheating of electronic devices, fluctuating voltage and electric sparks after a sudden resumption of power supply following the load-shedding, poor handling of oil-fed lamps, cooking gas leakage and careless storage of petrol, diesel and kerosene are the main causes of fire. Many cases of houses and workshops being burned down were reported for the last five months, especially in the Tarai, when people started hoarding the highly inflammable petrol, diesel and kerosene.

The Home Ministry said that 14 persons were killed due to fire as of September last year and the Kathmandu Valley had witnessed 395 incidents of fire in the last fiscal year. As many as 220 cases of fire have already occurred this year. Most of the fires take place during the dry season, mostly in shanty settlements where people do not keep the traditional earthen stove safe from gusty winds and children. Many villages in the Tarai region were gutted by fire after  fire on the earthen stove was either blown away by the wind or children playing with fire when their parents were away for work. Keeping all this in mind, the Home Ministry has issued a warning against the increased risk of fire outbreaks during the dry season and urged the people to prevent such incidents.

A fire is not a natural disaster but an incident caused by human negligence and carelessness. It is, therefore, imperative to control the sources of fire to prevent potential risks. Incidents of fire have occurred more recently as people have started storing highly inflammable products such as petrol, diesel and kerosene inside their houses during scarcity. Leakage of cooking gas is another problem as most of the gas cylinders are  very old and of poor quality as the bottling plants are least bothered about changing them on time, and the consumers also do not report to the dealers in case of gas leakage. The best way to be safe from the risk of fire outbreaks is to avoid keeping the highly inflammable items at home. On the other hand, the firefighters in all municipalities must be kept on the standby so that the outbreaks of fire can be controlled before it engulfs a large area. The people living in congested city areas must be extra careful while using fire, as it is very hard for the firefighters to reach there during emergencies.

For public interest

From now on KMC and all the sub-metropolis and municipalities will be required to set up a Municipal Information Centre (MIC) in their responsibility areas by mid-May. These centres would also be set up at their offices and places accessible to the people. The local media has been asked to convey the message of the establishment of MIC and also its operation. This will be carried out in coordination with the concerned DDCs, district chamber of commerce and industry and all who are to be affected. The MIC would be keeping reading materials and also acts, rules and guidelines pertaining to the locals bodies, the decisions that have been made by them, details of the arrears and the profile of the various municipalities, among others, to all those interested.

The MIC will also possess state-of-the art audio visual materials, such as TV and free internet and Wi-Fi facilities. The budget would be allocated for this purpose in the coming year. Working in collaboration with Sajha Publication they would display the designs of earthquake resistant houses. This would be useful for they would also provide information of the equipment needed during earthquakes and about the services that are available in the concerned municipalities.

A version of this article appears in print on April 07, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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