- 670 fire incidents took place in the port city in 2021
- The extent of damage was estimated to be about Tk7.5cr
- In 2018, 30 fire hydrants were installed in the city which are currently active
The Chattogram Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) has taken an initiative to install 174 fire hydrants with integrated GPS coordinates and a district metered area (DMA) facility across the port city to supply adequate water for firefighting.
The hydrants are expected to be fully operational this year.
A fire hydrant or firecock is a connection point where firefighters can tap into a water supply.
Chattogram Wasa Managing Director Engineer AKM Fazlullah told The Business Standard, "Fire hydrants are available in many modern cities, including South Korea and Japan, to reduce damage during conflagrations. Considering the safety of various important installations in Chattogram, Wasa has taken the initiative."
Chattogram is known as the country's commercial capital and the gateway to its economy. The city is also home to numerous industries and establishments. So the risk of fire is also high there.
According to the Chattogram Fire Service and Civil Defence office, as many as 670 fire incidents took place in the country's second-largest city in 2021 and six people lost their lives while 19 others were injured in the incidents. The extent of damage was estimated to be about Tk7.5 crore.
The Fire Service in Chattogram once used ponds, lakes, and water reservoirs as sources of water for firefighting. But some 24,000 reservoirs became nonexistent in the last four decades.
According to the 1981 statistics of the Department of Environment, there were about 25,000 small and large ponds, lakes, and reservoirs in Chattogram, but a 1991 survey of the Fisheries Department shows that the number of reservoirs has come down to 19,250. In 2006-07, a survey of the Chattogram Development Authority found only 4,523 water bodies.
A recent study conducted by Chittagong University in 2016-17 found a total of 1,249 water bodies in 41 wards of the city. Under the circumstances, firefighters are facing difficulties finding water due to the water crisis.
Chattogram Fire Service and Civil Defence Assistant Director Faruk Hossain Sikder said the extent of damage in fire incidents is increasing due to water scarcity.
He told The Business Standard, "Many ponds and reservoirs in Chattogram have been filled up. In the absence of an adequate source, firefighting work gets impeded during an emergency. Once the hydrants are installed, fires can be brought under control quickly."
According to Chattogram Wasa sources, the Wasa authorities sent a letter to the Fire Service and Civil Defense to formulate a design with appropriate spots for the installation of hydrants in September 2014. The Fire Service named 86 locations and initiatives were taken under two projects to install the hydrants.
In 2018, 30 fire hydrants were installed in the city under the Chattogram Water Supply Improvement and Sanitation Project with the assistance of the World Bank, which is currently active.
In light of several major fire incidents in Dhaka in 2019, the necessity for fire hydrants in Chattogram came to the fore again. At the time, an initiative was taken to install 144 more fire hydrants in one package under Karnaphuli Water Supply Project (Phase 2).
Under this project, a 700km pipeline network and 59 DMA (district metered area) facilities are being set up in the city. The work of laying the pipelines will be completed by October this year. Then the fire hydrants will be connected to this network.
A total of 174 fire hydrants will be installed, under GPS coordinates, at a cost of around Tk2 crore. These hydrants will be locked and keys will be handed over to the Fire Service authorities.
In case of a fire, the Fire Service will be able to detect proximate fire hydrants through GPS. However, no decision has been made yet on who will bear the cost of water used in fire extinguishing.
Chattogram Wasa Chief Engineer Maksud Alam told The Business Standard, "Fire hydrants have already been installed at 30 locations in the city and installation of 144 more is underway as per requirements, which are connected to the DMA. Some 94, out of the total 144, installations have been completed so far while 30 hydrants have been commissioned. These will be handed over to the Fire Service when asked."
Responding to a query, he said, "It has not been decided yet who will carry the cost of water. This is not a big issue. We have some street hydrants and the government allocates us funds for those on an annual basis."
"When the work of DMA is completed, the responsibility of all the fire hydrants will be handed over to the Fire Service, and we will keep a constant watch on whether anyone is misusing water illegally," he added.