The cause may be different, but the effect is the same.
Construction work of the underground East-West Metro tunnelling system at the heavily congested Bowbazar area of central Kolkata, which led to the fresh appearance of cracks in at least eight residential buildings on late Wednesday evening, resulted in the familiar picture of panicked residents leaving homes with bare essentials on Thursday for temporary shelter in neighbourhood hotels.
The development led to jogging of eerie memories of similar, perhaps more devastating, impact which the area witnessed in August-September 2019 when similar cracks in a number of buildings led to the eventual collapse of some 10 of them after the Metro’s Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), Chandi, hit an aquifer or underground water pocket.
Back then, the massive ingress of water and slush into the tunnel not only rendered the TBM inoperable but also led to large-scale soil subsidence in the region resulting in cracks and collapses.
Many of those who were rendered homeless then have still not managed to return from their temporary addresses because Metro authorities have not yet managed to complete the underground construction work and rebuild the houses which were destroyed.
According to data provided by Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation Limited (KMRCL) authorities, 87 people have now freshly joined the list of homeless people in Bowbazar. The figure is likely to go up.
While Chandi and a second TBM, Urvi, which was deployed by KMRCL to finish the unfinished task underneath Bowbazar have already been excavated and retrieved, authorities explained that the fresh ingress of water from an aquifer happened when the construction of a concrete slab some 33 metres below surface led to leakage from 11 different points.
“We have plugged leaks from 10 of those 11 places and hope to plug the final leak by tonight,” said NC Karmali, GM, Civil, KMRCL, on Thursday.
The construction of the concrete slab, 38 metres in length, and adjacent walls is necessary to join the two ends of the west-bound tunnel which will connect the Esplanade and Sealdah stations of E-W Metro and falls right underneath Bowbazar.
“The work for 29 of those 38 metres is already complete without a hindrance. Trouble hit us when we were in the process of building the final 9-metre length of the slab. We are taking every precaution to avert a disaster, but some unforeseen challenges are there to strike us every step of the way, ” Karmali added.
Metro officials maintained that the volume of water in the aquifer may have considerably gone up after the city received over 100 mm of rainfall in the last few days, resulting in increased pressure on underground soil.
The assurances of adequate precaution weren’t enough to pacify Abhijit Matilal, a chartered accountant and owner of a 225-year-old house, which has developed fresh cracks since Wednesday. “I am extremely disappointed with the Metro authorities who felt no need to reach out to us so far and explain why we have to undergo a repeat experience of horror we suffered 3 years ago.”
Similar exasperation was voiced by Sandip Shaw, a resident of Durga Pithuri Lane in Bowbazar, who moved to a neighbourhood hotel with his family, including his aged parents.
“The cracks in the house are not in mm or cm but in inches and are beyond repair. One side of the house has subsided in the ground. I want answers from Metro on what they would do for us next to enable us to tide past the uncertainty we are currently facing.”
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has constituted a committee of experts under DG Buildings to inspect the fresh damages to houses in the locality and recommend measures.
Originally published at www.news18.com