Massive apartment complex in city poses fire risk
The developer of Lake City Concord Housing scheme in the capital’s Khilkhet area has sold and handed over most of its apartments to about 5,000 occupants defying fire safety rules.
The law clearly states that high-rises as those in the housing complex must have special fire safety provisions.
The 17-acre Lake City project, a satellite town developed by Concord Real Estate and Development Limited, now has 10 sixteen-storey buildings.
At least 1,200 of a total of 1,600 apartments here are occupied by around 5,000 residents, said Rousana Parvin, a resident of the complex who had been the supervisor of the recently concluded population census in that area.
The apartments vary in sizes from 750 square feet to up to 1,300 square feet, she said, adding that there are nine to 11 apartments on each floor.
Mobarak Hossain, chief operating officer of Concord Group, said the number of apartments would be more than 900, of which 600 with 3,000 residents are occupied.
As per Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC), a high-rise has to have special fire fighting facility including designated fire lift, escape route protected with fire-rated door, refuge area, standby generator, fire alarm system and fire fighters’ access facility. The Lake City lacks those.
Although the buildings have three staircases and two lifts each, they are not fire protected as required by the BNBC.
The other basic fire safety provisions including fire fighting pump, smoke and heat detectors, raiser (sprinklers), hose reel, designated underground and overhead reservoirs for fire fighting, vents and extinguishers among others are also missing here.
During a visit to two of the buildings, Laboni and Madhobi, The Daily Star found none of the safety equipment except some fire extinguisher cylinders.
In February last year, a seven-member family was killed in a fire at Japan Garden City, a similar housing complex in the capital’s Mohammadpur area that neglected functional fire fighting system.
Md Zahurul Amin Mian, assistant director of Department of Fire Service and Civil Defence, said Baridhara station officer of fire service had verbally informed him about the Lake City buildings not having any fire safety installations except for some extinguishers.
“Concord has put the residents’ lives in danger building enormous housing scheme without fire safety,” he said admitting that they did not take any legal actions against the developer.
He said he had “unofficially” sent the station officer to inspect Lake City by the end of January and the officer did not file any report in this regard.
Zahur remained silent when asked why the visit was unofficial and why he did not serve a notice on Concord Real Estate and Development Ltd.
Records show eight of the then sixteen-member one-window cell of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) consented to the Lake City project in April 2008. Rajuk gave its approval to the revised layout plan of the project the following year.
The Fire Service gave its consent in favour of construction of the high-rises but did not check on the compliance.
On completion of the construction the developer did not seek fire safety clearance and occupancy certificate from the fire department either.
Shahriar Kamal, deputy managing director (DMD) of Concord Group, said, “We will install a central fire fighting system by and by.” He however kept silent when asked why it has not been installed already.
The fire prevention law requires installation of fire fighting system before handing over a building to its occupants.
Major Shahjalal, immediate past director (operations) of the fire department, said the kind of fire fighting system the Concord authorities are now pledging is not according to the specifications in the fire prevention rules and hence it make no sense.
The housing complex also lacks playground, school, parks and community space which were included in the project’s 12-year-old approved layout.
Around 700 children live in this “satellite town”.
“The flashy advertisements caught our eyes but as time went our dreams faded,” said a resident of Laboni building requesting anonymity.
Over the promised benefits, a conflict is going on between the realtor and Lake City Concord Apartment Owners Development and Management Society which led to a case now pending at a Dhaka court.
The Concord Group DMD said they would develop the residential facilities soon.
Concord obtained Rajuk approval of an 8.5-acre project in June 1999 for 18 sixteen-storey buildings with provisions for a school, mosque and a community mini bus station.
A decade later, the layout was revised. The developer incorporated a playground in the layout but chose to build two more high-rises — a residential building and a nine-storey community building — on the land earlier earmarked for a school and a mosque.
The chief operating office of Concord Group said the new community building would be the second shopping mall of Lake City.
Syed Kamruzzaman Mahboob, former president of apartment owners’ society, filed complaints with the state minister for housing and public works and Rajuk chairman about the reduced residential amenities. He wrote to the Rajuk chairman again in this February but to no avail.
Md Nurul Huda, chairman of Rajuk, said he had ordered a three-member investigation committee on May 10, 2011 to look into the anomalies.
Courtesy of The Daily Star