The incident of roof and front wall collapse of a heritage building in Connaught Place’s C Block on Wednesday raises serious concerns over safety of buildings in the iconic 84-year-old market that has been undergoing a revamp.
Wednesday’s collapse, which luckily injured no one, also puts a question mark on the state of all iconic Central Delhi markets in terms of structural safety.
For example, like Connaught Place, Khan Market, too, is not in the best of shapes, if traders are to be believed.
For one, overloading on the roofs of various buildings is a major issue at Khan Market, too. A team from IIT-Roorkee had conducted a survey on structural safety of the market over 1.5 years ago as part of the Khan Market redevelopment project. The revamp proposal, however, is stuck.
“We are scared. Khan Market is in a similar situation, too. With 10,000-20,000 litre water tanks and generator sets crowding the roofs, we are in a precarious situation. Every year, the foundation of these buildings gets weaker and the load has increased manifold posing a grave danger to these structures.
“Experts from IIT-Roorkee were hired by New Delhi Municipal Council two years back for advice on retrofittings of the old structures of this market established in 1950. However, we are yet to see any real action,” Khan Marker traders’ association president Sanjeev Mehra said.
There are 156 shops and 74 residential spaces in Khan Market, which was set up as a neighbourhood market in 1950 and is now one of the most expensive commercial spaces in the world. Of these 74 residential spaces on the first and second floors, 44 are engaging in commercial activities housing 30 restaurants, while another 10 eateries are located on the ground floor, Mehra said.
The association had in 2013 moved Delhi High Court against the New Delhi Municipal Council for allegedly not having implemented the redevelopment plan, which included a fire emergency plan, thereby putting lives of traders, shoppers and visitors at risk.
The NDMC fire department, before the redevelopment project at Connaught Place started, had done a survey on the structural safety of CP buildings too.
“Before the façade restoration, a structural safety survey was done by the fire department. It was found that many roofs had either turned into junk yards or been converted into office spaces. Most were being used to keep generator sets along with petrol and diesel containers to run these. Notices were issued to such buildings.
“Later, it was found out that the structures built in 1930s were not vibration proof, especially against the ones caused by generator sets. More notices were gthen slapped. Some removed their gensets, others didn’t,” a council official said.
Till 2010, there were only 50 restaurants in Connaught Place. Today, that number has seen a four-time jump. There are about 500 small and big shops here, according to the New Delhi Traders’ Association.
No safety inspections are conducted at CP by the New Delhi Municipal Council and the individual owners have been asked to get experts for their respective properties and conduct regular repairs.
Some people take expert help from architects and structural engineers, while others themselves go ahead and conduct unplanned construction.