In Kolkata, houses collapse during Metro tunnelling work

Published : September 04, 2019 18:53 IST

At Durga Pithuri Lane in Central Kolkata’s Bow Bazar area, debris of a building that collapsed as a result of tunnelling work for the Kolkata Metro’s East-West corridor, on September 3. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Residents of Bow Bazar at the site of the building collapse at Durga Pithuri Lane on September 3 worried about the safety of their houses in the narrow lanes of one of the oldest and busiest areas of Kolkata. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

The much-awaited East-West Metro project that is expected to bring enormous relief to commuters in Kolkata turned out to be a nightmare for some of the residents of Bow Bazaar, one of the most congested parts of central Kolkata. On September 1, a large number of houses in the narrow Durga Pithuri lane here suddenly developed cracks and started caving in after a tunnel-boring machine of the Metro project, working 14 metres under the ground, struck an aquifer (underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock). As the water gushed into the machine and the tunnel, the houses above the surface began to get badly damaged. Residents of 18 buildings had to be evacuated immediately. By September 3, two buildings had collapsed fully and many more, in Durga Pithuri lane and other lanes near it, had suffered severe damage. in More than 370 residents from 52 buildings had to be shifted to safety.

Parts of Bow Bazaar, one of the oldest and busiest regions of Kolkata, wore a war-ravaged look, with the dust still not settled amid the rubble. Many of the houses that are teetering on the verge of collapse are over a hundred years old. The local people fear that a spell of heavy rain and gusty wind could also bring them crashing down. Most of the residents, who had to be evacuated, stand to lose all their belongings as they did not have the time to even gather their important documents when they rushed out to safety. The affected residents have all been provided temporary alternative accommodation.

The Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation Ltd (KMRCL), the implementing agency of the East-West Metro, informed the Calcutta High Court that tunneling work for the East-West Project would remain suspended until September 16 when the court was scheduled to hear the matter again. The Calcutta High Court was hearing a PIL in the matter.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee set up a high-powered committee chaired by the State Chief Secretary to decide upon KMRCL’s future course of action. ““This is not the time to discuss whose fault the whole thing was. Now we have to focus on helping the affected people and at the same time ensure the completion of the project [the Metro project] but with proper safety and security…. So far 52 families had to be shifted without prior notice. They are left with nothing. They need to be given a solatium. The KMRC should have paid interim compensation as a goodwill gesture,” said Mamata.

KMRCL managing director Manas Sarkar said, “We have the responsibility of taking care of those displaced and we will arrange for their rehabilitation.” The KMRCL has also formed a committee to look into the immediate needs of the affected families.

The East-West Metro project connects Howrah Maidan and New Town Rajarhat in the northeastern part of Kolkata. In the 16.6 km stretch 10.8 km will be underground and the rest will be on an an elevated corridor. The KMRCL successfully completed boring tunnels under the Hoogly riverbed in March 2017. The estimated cost of the project is Rs.8,474.98 crore. This unforeseen development is likely to delay the project further and push up the project cost.