Lloyed estate wall collapse: Residents allege collusion between civic officials, builder

Jul 03, 2018, 12:03 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Structural inspection following the cave-in reveals a wall that can be seen only from BMC's Building Proposal Department office, but not where it is supposed to be; residents allege collusion between civic officials and builder

Lloyed estate wall collapse: Residents allege collusion between civic officials, builder
The reinforced concrete wall (circled in red) with BMC's Building Proposal Department building in the background (the one with the green steeple roof)

A 40-foot-high Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) wall was constructed by Dosti Realty diagonally opposite Lloyd Estate and Dosti Blossom to prevent any cave-in on that side, inspections by structural experts have revealed. On that side is the office of civic body's Building Proposal Department, the very same department that had given Dosti permission for its upcoming project.

As many as seven vehicles were buried in the cave-in at Wadala
As many as seven vehicles were buried in the cave-in at Wadala

BMC-approved structural engineer Nitin Kamble of Nitin & Associates, who had carried out extensive checks at both Dosti Blossom and Lloyd Estate, had, since 2017, been writing letters about the cracks and unevenness visible on the pavements and about the sunken driveway ever since the excavation work started and expressed fears about future damage to the structures around it and to human life.

The engineer had also recommended that an RCC wall be constructed around the excavated areas (as per the audit report and after numerous personal site conversations with the site engineers and structural engineers) to avoid any further damage to the residential buildings, but these were blatantly ignored by the developer.

The cracks, as pointed out by a structural engineer back in January this year, in the BMC's Building Proposal Department, diagonally opposite the site of last week's cave-in at Wadala
The cracks, as pointed out by a structural engineer back in January this year, in the BMC's Building Proposal Department, diagonally opposite the site of last week's cave-in at Wadala

Kamble said, "On Sunday, when I visited the site, I was shocked to find that an RCC wall had already been constructed diagonally opposite Lloyd Estate and Dosti Blossom, and the building proposal department building was merely 20 metres from the wall. This is the same distance between the excavated area that caved in last week and Lloyd Estate building. The closest distance from the excavated area to Dosti Blossom is just six metres, of which one side of Dosti Blossom is merely three meters away."

Kamble, in his letter dated August 4, 2017, had mentioned the cave-in of July 31, 2017 at the construction site, mere metres from the RCC wall. "In our audit report, submitted to BMC, we had stated clearly that an RCC wall from the excavated level (which at present is around 40 feet) to the ground level of Lloyd's Estate should be constructed to avoid any landslide, but other than doing piecemeal work of reinforcing a few areas, no wall was constructed," he said.

The cracks, as pointed out by a structural engineer back in January this year, in the BMC's Building Proposal Department, diagonally opposite the site of last week's cave-in at Wadala

About the retaining wall being only on one side of the excavated area, Kamble said, "The approximate plot area excavated for construction is around 60 metres x 100 metres. The RCC wall being built only next to the Building Proposal Department is obviously to avoid any cave-in situation right under the building that has a direct impact on their work."

Post the cave-in last week, the developer was quick to use 179 tons of concrete to prevent a further cave-in. However, eyewitnesses claim that the developer has also used soft soil to backfill the caved-in spot. This according to experts might lead to another cave-in in case of heavy to very heavy rainfall, where the soil will be washed away.

G B Yadav, a managing committee member at Lloyd Estate, said, "If they [developer] have constructed an RCC wall at only the excavated portion facing the Building Proposal Department, it is evident that the developer is trying to keep the BMC happy."

Dr G M Rana, another resident, said, "This clearly shows connivance between the Building Proposal Department and the developer. Also, the irony is that the Building Proposal Department is giving permissions without even conducting proper inspections."

Also read: Lloyd estate wall collapse: BMC to appoint special body for structural audit of Wadala towers

Cracks in Building Proposal building, too
Nitin Kamble had written to senior BMC officials, soon after his inspection of the Building Proposal Department building on June 27, 2018 (copy with this paper). He had stated, "We observed distress in the structural and non-structural elements of your building and opine that this is the outcome of the excavation activity in the area adjoining your building. We had intimated F (north) to convey to you to take all precautions as the excavation is very deep and very close to your building. We request you to take utmost care as we observed multiple distress signs in your building elements, too."

When asked if he had received any response from the Building Proposal Department to his letter, Kamble said, "It is unfortunate that a department authorised to not only sanction permissions and approve plans of a proposed project is themselves ignoring cracks clearly visible on their walls." Seventy-odd BMC staffers report at this building daily and it sees an equal number of visitors.

BMC had threatened to fine Dosti Blossom
The BMC F/North ward had issued notice to the chairman/secretary of Dosti Blossom on July 24, 2017 (copy with this paper), under section 353 (B) of Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, stating that on routine inspection of their building, some vertical and horizontal cracks were observed in the building and which was found in dangerous condition and hence a structural auditor be appointed and an audit report be submitted to the Assistant Commissioner, F/North ward. The letter also directed that necessary corrective repairs be carried out by the owners/occupiers as suggested by the structural engineer within six months, failing which a minimum fine of R25,000 or the annual property tax amount, whichever is more, will be levied.

Kamble said, "Now that their own building has developed cracks and the structure stability is also a matter of concern, doesn't it make the executive engineer and other senior officials within BMC accountable. Shouldn't they mend their ways instead of pointing fingers at innocent flat occupiers?"

He added, "It is high time that BMC officials are held accountable for their actions. And, in the larger interest of the public, they need to think before sanctioning permissions for construction activities without doing any due diligence to protect and safeguard human life and property."

Primary consultant submit report
Dosti Blossom residents managed to rope in their consultants M/s Sterling Engineering Consultancy Services Pvt Lt and have submitted their report on June 29, 2018. The report states that their engineers visited the building and spotted a few things. Of five points stated, two areas of concern are:

1. All the main columns and beams supporting the tower block appear to be in sound condition. However, the tie-beams connected to the podium have been pulled away - resulting in separation of cracks between the tower and the podium.

2. There is extensive damage to the external edge of the podium due to a large settlement of soil below the podium floor. The junctions of columns and beams along this edge have suffered major damage.

In view of this, we feel that there is no immediate danger to the safety and stability of the tower block. But, the podium block is unsafe and unfit for car parking or any other purpose.

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