DAMAK, Nov 29: On Sunday, a fire in Shivasatakshi Municipality of Jhapa killed four members of the same family. The municipality did not have its own fire engine and the locals had to wait for two hours for a fire engine from another local unit to arrive at the scene. Locals are wondering if the family could have been saved if their municipality had its own fire engine.
Just last week, fire in the main marketplace of Urlabari Municipality in Morang gutted a general store belonging to Bhakti Ram Adhikari. The fire caused financial losses worth nearly Rs 30 million.
Shivashatakshi residents are angry as their local units distributed vehicles to ward chairs and deputy chairs instead of investing in a desperately needed fire engine.
“The negligence of the municipality is to be blamed for such big fire incidents,” claimed Shekhar Adhikari of Shivasatakshi.
The municipality has purchased and distributed motorcycles to all ward chairpersons. Some local representatives have been provided with new vehicles despite having old working-condition vehicles.
For instance, Shivashatakshi Mayor Chandra Kumar Sharma was already provided a Tata Sumo jeep but the municipality purchased a Toyota jeep worth Rs 7.2 million for his use. Likewise, the deputy mayor uses a new Tata Sumo costing Rs 3.2 million.
In Urlabari, it took two hours to douse the fire. The locals said much of the property could have been saved had the fire engines responded on time. However, Urlabari does not have a single fire engine and has to depend on neighboring local units.
“We fulfill our responsibility by paying our taxes but the municipality is not fulfilling its responsibilities toward its residents,” complained Sarita KC of Urlabari. “Locals should unite and pressure the municipality to purchase a fire engine,” she added.
A year ago, Urlabari Mayor Khadka Fago claimed to have initiated the process of purchasing a fire engine. But they still don’t have one.
Likewise, Kankai Municipality also does not have a fire engine. Municipality chief Rajendra Sharma said they have no plans to buy a fire engine because the operation and maintenance will cost huge.
“There are donors willing to gift us a fire engine. But we have not accepted the offer because of the huge operation and maintenance costs. I think it would be better if all local units coordinated and give firefighting responsibility to the security agencies,” he said.
The stories of Gaurdaha Municipality and Buddashanti Rural Municipality of Jhapa are also similar. They have splashed funds on expensive vehicles for local representatives but have no money for a fire engine.
Only Damak, Bhadrapur, Mechinagar and Birtamod in Jhapa have their own fire brigades.