Wadala cave-in: Mandatory 40-foot retaining wall that could have prevented landslide, not built

Jun 27, 2018, 09:03 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Structural inspection of cave-in site points to negligence by both developer and civic body

Wadala cave-in: Mandatory 40-foot retaining wall that could have prevented landslide, not built
From left Concrete being poured at the cave-in site at Wadala on Tuesday

An inspection by structural experts at the cave-in site at Wadala has revealed that a mandatory 40-foot retaining wall, suggested in the structural audit report last year, and that was to be built from the excavation site to the boundary wall of Lloyds Estate and Dosti Blossom, was never complied with resulting in the mishap on Monday.

In the last 24 hours, nearly 175 tons of concrete readymix valued at around Rs 14 lakh has been poured at the landslide area, to prevent any further cave-in. Despite the preventive measures being taken at the spot from Monday, another minor cave-in happened on Tuesday evening, next to Monday's cave-in.

Cars that had been buried in the mudslide on Monday were pulled out on Tuesday
Cars that had been buried in the mudslide on Monday were pulled out on Tuesday

Structural engineer Nitin Kamble, who had been at the spot till Tuesday morning, said, "It is unfortunate that our plea has been ignored by both the developer and the BMC. Cavities were noticed in the soil at Dosti Blossom, which is close to the excavation area and next to Lloyd Estate. When the site engineers were told about this, they were confident nothing untoward would happen. But, I fear otherwise."

Kamble said, "In our audit report, we had stated clearly that a Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) wall should be constructed to avoid any landslide, but other than doing piecemeal work of reinforcing a few areas, no wall was constructed."

Kamble added that last year, on July 31, a similar landslide had happened at the construction site on the opposite side of the excavation location. "We had conducted a safety audit in May 2017 and submitted a detailed audit report to the BMC and had even written to F/N assistant commissioner about cracks visible on the pavements and the sunken roads and expressed our apprehension about future damage to the structures and to human life," he said.

Cracks that had formed on the wall of Dosti Blossom next to Lloyd's Estate, in Wadala. Pic/Atul Kamble
Cracks that had formed on the wall of Dosti Blossom next to Lloyd's Estate, in Wadala. Pic/Atul Kamble

In his first letter dated August 4, 2017, Kamble had stated that the society members feared some distress to their buildings due to deep excavation." "On July 31, I got to know about the landslide due to local failure of a shoring system along the periphery of the excavated plot. On August 2, I visited the site and requested that necessary steps be initiated to avoid an untoward incident," Kamble stated in his letter.

In his subsequent letter dated October 11, Kamble stated, "The temporary steel structures erected to support lateral pressure, particularly where the local shore piles did not work, also failed and were found collapsed during our visit on October 9, 2017. Properties of adjoining societies were damaged due to this, but further damage can now certainly be checked."

Cars that had been buried in the mudslide on Monday were pulled out on Tuesday.
Cars that had been buried in the mudslide on Monday were pulled out on Tuesday.

Advocate Abha Singh claimed that a few residents approached her to take up the case. She said "Prima facie after going through the documents, it is evident that the local ward officials did not pay heed to the structural engineers' letters or the structural audit report. The assistant commissioner F/N ward needs to be arrested immediately as he failed to act on the complaint. Why did the local ward office not take action or were they under pressure?"

She added, "We have also moved an RTI plea seeking information about the safety audit conducted before carrying out excavation activities at the site. The 2012 Notification Amending the Development Control Regulations of Greater Mumbai, 1991 deleting the size and depth restrictions on basements and reducing open space to just 1.5 metres, thereby endangering the stability of neighbouring structures," said Singh.

She further said, "Sections 37 and 37(1AA) of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, 1966, instead of following the exhaustive procedure under Section 37, the government adopted a fast-track procedure to delete the basement norms and ease them for builders, favouring the builder lobby. I am going through the documents and will decide on my next course of action soon."

 Also read: Mumbai rains: Residents of Lloyd Estate say, we warned that this would happen!

FIR registered
Rajput said, "The police have registered a FIR following public pressure, but the sections are all bailable. The Garodias who run the construction company Dosti Realty Limited have already gone underground to avoid public wrath and arrest."

Rajput added, "All cars parked in the compound have been moved out of the society and a few cars that were buried in the cave-in were removed till evening. The police, fire brigade, BMC and heavy cranes are now parked in our society for rescue operations."

Meanwhile, Shantilal Jain, court commissioner, has sent an order to deputy chief engineer (building proposal department) BMC, issuing four directives: a) The developer should fill up the caved-in portion with murum, concrete and rubble immediately. b) As the society building is resting on a pile foundation, this is not going to affect structural stability of the society building. c) As a precautionary measure, cross support of steel girders to be provided to shore piling as per the developers structural engineer's advice and d) No dewatering should be done from the Dosti premises. A decision on resuming construction work will be take after this.

Stop work, orders court
THE small causes court has ordered the developer to stop all construction activity at the site. Advocate Madhav Rajput, 84, said, "The small causes court has issued a stay order. I am told the BMC, too, has issued a letter to the developer asking him to stop work."

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