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Week after Metro work resumes in Kolkata’s Bowbazar, more cracks in houses & another evacuation

Work had abruptly stalled in May after cracks appeared in houses in Durga Pithuri Lane. Authorities say 142 people have been evacuated after underground work resumed last week.

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Kolkata: At 4 am, Ashok Sarkar, a resident of BB Ganguly Street in Kolkata, saw cracks appear on the walls of his house.

“If the Metro authorities had informed us [that] work had resumed, we would have moved our belongings. Now we’re standing here, on the road, hoping our house doesn’t collapse,” Sarkar told ThePrint.  

A week after Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (KMRCL) resumed grouting work underground in Bowbazar, an old nightmare has returned to haunt the residents of Madan Dutta Lane and BB Ganguly Street. Grouting is the process in which underground water is controlled by packing it with cement and changing its physical characterisation. 

The process was stalled in May after similar cracks developed in the houses of Durga Pithuri Lane in Bowbazar, resulting in at least 150 residents being evacuated.

Ekalabya Chakraborty, the Metro’s chief public relations officer, told ThePrint that the water flow in Bowbazar is at a supersaturation level and that the water springs up with the slightest work.

“And once the water starts rising, it doesn’t stop. We are facing only one problem, that is water only rising in that particular place constantly. We are calling superior experts and we are hopeful we will resolve this problem by December,” he said.

A.K. Nandi, general manager (administration) of KMRCL, visited the spot for an inspection. He told ThePrint that 10 houses had developed cracks so far.   

The Metro rail authorities have moved around 142 people from Madan Dutta Lane to a hotel nearby, and promised compensation within the next two weeks, Nandi said.  

Cracks inside a house on Kolkata's BB Ganguly street | Photo by special arrangement
Cracks inside a house on Kolkata’s BB Ganguly street | Photo by special arrangement

Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim, who also rushed to the spot, urged the Indian Railways authorities in New Delhi to intervene immediately. “This cannot be a recurring problem. We have had several meetings but now Delhi needs to intervene. Their officials here in Kolkata are unable to control this problem time and again and this cannot go on,” Hakim told ThePrint.

Trinamool MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay, in whose constituency this project falls, told reporters that he would speak to the Metro authorities and write to the Union railway minister asking for a “time-bound solution”.

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Flagged off in 2009, the East-West Metro will connect Kolkata with Howrah, across the Hooghly river, through a 10.8-km tunnel. A nearly 6-km stretch will lie under water. 

The only Metro rail project directly under the Indian Railways, the corridor will also connect east and west Kolkata.

The project has been beset with problems from the start. Political changes and land acquisition caused delays — the latest revised deadline for the completion of the entire east-west corridor is January 2023, pushed back from June 2022 due to Covid-19 and the 2019 incident.

A section of the East-West Metro corridor — from Sealdah to Sector V — has been operational since October 2020. In July, Union minister Smriti Irani inaugurated the Sealdah Metro Station from Howrah Maidan and took a metro ride. 

Apart from all this, the metro has another lingering problem: Safety. In 2019, two houses collapsed in Bowbazar during tunnelling. 

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

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