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East-West Metro project

Metro work triggers cracks in Bowbazar for third time in 3 years

100 residents shifted from houses at Madan Dutta Lane

Kinsuk Basu | Published 15.10.22, 07:00 AM
Residents of Madan Dutta Lane in Bowbazar leave home on Friday.

Residents of Madan Dutta Lane in Bowbazar leave home on Friday.

Pradip Sanyal

More than 100 residents of Madan Dutta Lane in Bowbazar woke up on Friday morning and noticed long and deep cracks on the walls and staircases of their houses, which stand on East-West Metro’s route.

As many as 136 people from at least 10 buildings in the narrow lane, which lies just above a tunnel connecting the two tunnels of East-West Metro, had to be evacuated.


They were shifted to various hotels in central Kolkata after officials of Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), the implementing agency of East-West Metro, realised that the cracks would grow because of seepage of water underground.

This is the third incident of seepage and formation of cracks in buildings in Bowbazar resulting from the construction of East-West Metro, which once fully functional will connect Howrah Maidan with Sector V. Madan Dutta Lane, the epicentre of Friday’s disaster, adjoins Durga Pituri Lane, where nine buildings had developed cracks on May 11.

The first such incident had occurred in 2019, when an aquifer broke during tunnel-boring work for East-West Metro. Senior officials of KMRC said the latest round of cracks surfaced because water started leaking underground at an unbelievable pace — around 200 litre per minute — causing the soil beneath the buildings to shift rapidly.

Preventive measures that were taken did not prove enough, they said. Several residents said they woke up to a mild sound around 5am and spotted cracks spreading across walls, staircases and courtyards of their houses. The fissures kept growing by the hour as panic gripped families who didn’t know what to do.

“Around 5.15am, when I usually wake up to prepare my son for school, I heard a neighbour shout ‘boudi beriye aasun (madam step out)’. I stepped out and noticed cracks all over the house,” recounted Nabanita Barua, a resident of Madan Dutta Lane. Gradually, many residents came out of their houses as cracks started emerging across outer walls, parapets, floors and rooftops. Within the next two hours, a team of police personnel took position inside the lane armed with moveable barriers to cordon off the area. Senior KMRC officials arrived and were greeted with protests from the residents, some of who tried to grab officials by their collars. The police intervened, trying to calm frayed nerves before urging residents through loud hailers to pack up and leave.

Aapnara bari chhere beriye aasun (come out of your houses),” an officer said, holding a loud hailer and walking down the narrow lane.

“We will arrange for your alternative accommodation.” Families then started coming out, with their deities and bags containing valuables. “We have been dealing in jute bags for several decades from this house. What will happen to us and our business?” wondered Pankaj Shaw, a resident of one of the crack-hit houses. The cracks owing to subsidence hit a section of jewellers in Bowbazar just when they had started preparing for the Dhanteras sale on October 23. Several of them said their showrooms on BB Ganguly Street developed cracks in the roof.

“We have begun the process of arresting the seepage of water underground. Residents of 10 buildings have been shifted and that of another 25 others would have to be done (shifted),” said C.N. Jha, managing director of KMRC. “Necessary precautions were taken since work of constructing the connecting tunnel started on October 13.

But unfortunately those didn’t prove enough.” KMRC officials said they would compensate victims. Shop-owners occupying space up to 100sq ft will receive Rs 1 lakh, while those above will receive Rs 5 lakh. Building owners who cannot return within the next 30 days will be handed compensation of Rs 5 lakh each.

Last updated on 15.10.22, 09:11 AM

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