KARACHI - Sindh government has the fullest realisation that the firefighting system of Karachi has been the weakest in the entire country despite being the most populous city as the concerned authorities have started taking steps immediately to rectify the situation.

The assurance to strengthen the frail firefighting system of Karachi was given to audience of the 8th Fire Safety and Security Convention-2018 organised here by the National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH) in collaboration with the Fire Protection Association of Pakistan (FPAP) on Thursday.

The speakers lamented the situation that resources and equipment of fire brigade of Karachi had lately depleted to such an alarming extent that it could cover merely 10 percent portion of the city.

They were of the viewpoint that the Fire Department of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation should be upgraded on a war-footing basis so to make it fully capable to tackle more than one full-scale fire emergencies in the city at a time.

Sindh Minister for Environment and Climate Change Taimur Talpur who was chief guest on the occasion assured audience of the convention that the Sindh government had the complete realisation of the situation that much had still to be done to overcome serious deficiencies of the fire-fighting system of the city.

He said that the government was fully cognizant about massive loss of human lives, damage to public, and private properties due to recurring fire incidents in the city as such tragedies did occur due to the weak firefighting system. He said that relevant provincial authorities were fully aware of the fact that Sindh government was ultimately responsible for ensuring fire protection in the province.

The minister said that Sindh chief minister had duly given the task to provincial local government minister to beef up firefighting systems of municipal agencies across the province. He said that the provincial government in this regard had started providing necessary equipment to fire brigades of different municipal agencies in the province to upgrade them.

Also speaking on the occasion, FPAP President Imran Taj said that the field of fire protection had evolved and lately became a full-fledged professional discipline as resultantly a number of job opportunities had been created in corporate and industrial sectors related to the areas of Health, Environment, and Safety (HSE).

He said that study courses were being conducted both in the regional countries and globally to enhance the professional capabilities of the officials related to the field of the HSE. He said that industries and businesses in Pakistan had been lately compelled to establish their in-house HSE departments as without such an initiative they could not do trade and business with countries of the developed world.

FPAP Secretary Tariq Moen said that the FPAP had lately surveyed eight multi-storied commercial buildings on I.I Chundrigar Road in Karachi as emergency exits had been found in only two buildings. The situation has been much better on Sharea Faisal where construction of buildings is relatively newer as up to 40 percent high-rises on main thoroughfare of Karachi had emergency exits.

Fawad Barry, CEO of Haseen Habib Trading providing fire safety consultancy in the city, lamented that in the decades of 1990s, there were around 70 fire engines available to Karachi Fire Brigade whose number had now been reduced to just over a dozen.

He said that budget of millions of rupees had been spent in the provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to develop and upgrade Rescue 1122 service there but no such effort had been made in Karachi or elsewhere in Sindh.

He said that Fire Safety Provisions-2016 as part of the Building Code of Pakistan should be implemented in the entire country to make it lawfully binding upon constructors of new buildings to include all necessary fire safety measures for protection of lives of their occupants.

He said that Pakistan on an average had to suffer over 16,000 deaths, injuries to between 1,75,000 to 200,000 people, and property damage to the tune of Rs4 billion every year alone on the account of fire emergencies as due safety measures had to be taken to prevent such tragedies in future.

KCCI President Junaid Esmail Makda, NFEF President Naeem Qureshi, Engineer Nadeem Ashraf, project head of Fire, Safety and Security Convention, Ahmad Al Fasfous, SFFECO Global and Hassan Qureshi, Head of Admin and Security, Consul General Switzerland also spoke on the occasion.