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Could Bowbazar mishap been averted? CM's '11 route plan could be the answer

Kolkata: The disaster at Bowbazar where portions of several old buildings collapsed and many were badly damaged rendering hundreds of people homeless due to the overconfidence of Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Limited in constructing the underground tunnel of the East-West Metro, could have been avoided had the KMRCL and RITES engineers accepted the alternate route suggested by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee way back in 2011.

After holding several rounds of talks with the engineers, the city police had suggested that from Sealdah the underground Metro would come straight to Laldighi via BB Ganguly Street, crossing Chittaranjan Avenue, Lalbazar Street to Laldighi where the underground station called Mahakaran would be set up. The Metro would then go straight to Strand Road with GPO on the right.

Banerjee accepted the proposal of the city police and asked the KMRCL authorities to change the route. However, the latter sat on the proposal stating that they would face problems from the funding agency if they are informed about the route change.

The KMRCL maintained that from Sealdah, the Metro would take BB Ganguly Street, then a left turn and take Nirmal Chandra Street, pass Subodh Mullick Square and then take another right turn from SN Banerjee Road to reach Esplanade.

Amlanjyoti Kar, Superintending Hydrogeologist, Central Ground Water Board, maintained that along with clay there may be sand pockets under the sub-surface layer. The disaster might have taken place after the boring machine hit the sand pockets that resulted in oozing of water and resulted in sandslides leading to the weakening of the foundation of the structures. The KMRCL had not carried out rigorous soil tests which could have helped them to detect the sand pockets.

Meanwhile, the KMRCL roped in two foreign experts to address the seepage into the tunnel.

Three persons — two of whom are land experts while the other is a tunnel expert reached the city on Tuesday night and began work from Wednesday morning.

The three entered the tunnel along with the KMRCL engineers to examine the cause of the incident and also find out whether all the procedures were followed before starting the work for tunnel boring in an area where a number of old and dangerous buildings were located. They are also expected to examine the buildings and propose measures that can be taken for repair or pulling down of those buildings that are beyond repair. They will also examine the condition of the soil in and around the tunnel and supervise the work of putting water inside the tunnel to counter seepage. "A channel will be formed along the tunnel and water will be injected with huge force to stop the inflow," a KMRCL engineer said.

Land expert John Enrikord has come from Hong Kong who is being assisted by Dr. Pitchumani — an invitee lecturer of the IIT. Tunnel expert Bridge Christopher Hall supervised the work of steel sheets that is being installed inside the tunnel.

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