The Delhi Fire Service has declared the brand new departure terminal 1 D at the capital's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) unsafe.
Delhi Fire Service chief R.C. Sharma has refused to provide a no-objection certificate (NOC) for terminal 1 D, citing many shortcomings during the two inspections conducted by his team in the past few months.
In his last report on May 13, Sharma cited six shortcomings. He said the ventilation system in the VIP lounge, baggage area and the office area was yet to be completed. Further, he stated, the exit route in the retail area should have a separate staircase or passage.
"In some places sprinklers are hidden in the false ceiling, which should be brought down. Some of the restaurants are under construction and are using wooden material. The wood works need to be painted with fire retardant chemicals. Necessary fire alarms or sprinkler system should be extended to these areas," Sharma noted in his report.
He further said systems at the new departure terminal could not be checked due to passenger movement and asked for arrangements to test the systems whenever possible.
But so far the Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), a joint venture between the state-run Airports Authority of India and a consortium led by infrastructure major GMR, has not made any arrangements for the inspection of the systems.
In his report Sharma concluded that "terminal 1 D cannot be considered safe from the safety point of view till safety arrangements are fully completed."
Terminal 1 D, which is spread over 33,000 sq m, has replaced 1 B, the old terminal. It was opened for operations April 19. Kingfisher, Kingfisher Red and IndiGo, Jet Airways, JetLite and Spice Jet are operating from the new terminal, while GoAir, Air India and others are operating from terminal 1 A.
According to the airport officials, around 200 flights operate daily from the new departure terminal, which has been built at a cost of Rs.500 crore ($100 million). The terminal is able to handle 10 million passengers annually and is equipped with 72 check-in counters. It was inaugurated by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.
The airport authorities had first invited the Delhi Fire Service officials April 8. At that time, the fire service wrote in its report that fire pumps and the fire control room were yet to be fully operational and that the sprinkler line was not charged with water at many places.
DIAL sent a report to the fire department May 4 stating that measures suggested had been complied with. The fire department again conducted an inspection and highlighted fresh shortcomings.
When asked why necessary clearance was not sought before the new terminal came into operation, DIAL spokesman Arun Arora said the terminal was absolutely safe for operations and for passengers.
"DIAL is very much alive to the required fire safety norms. We have been following all fire safety norms (domestic as well as international) for all equipment and procedures".
"All necessary documents have been submitted to the fire department and inspections have been carried out by the Delhi Fire Service officers. All observations and suggestions made by them were carried out by DIAL. The suggestions made by them during their subsequent visit to terminal 1 D are also being carried out," he added.
Arora said to ensure fail-proof fire safety DIAL has taken many initiatives.
"We have deputed 18 well trained firemen who keep patrolling all areas of the terminals - like the check-in area, airline ticketing areas and security holds. More than 50 fire hydrant outlets have been deployed inside and outside the terminal for greater safety," Arora said.
Though DIAL has been running the new terminal without fire safety clearances, the Delhi Fire Service was silent on why no action was being taken against the airport authorities. As per the powers conferred upon the fire department, it can cut electricity and water supplies to a building or even shut it down if the fire safety norms are not met.