At least eight persons, including a toddler, died and several were feared trapped after two buildings collapsed in Greater Noida’s Shahberi village on Tuesday night. The six-storey buildings, one of which was under construction, collapsed around 9.15 pm. Police and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were pressed into service, with the rescue operations continuing till late Wednesday.
But many warnings in the months preceding the tragedy went unheeded, The Indian Express has found.
Since February this year, at least six complaints about “illegal and unauthorised construction” in Shahberi were submitted before district officials, state government departments and Chief Minister’s Office. Despite these red flags, numerous multiple-storey buildings continued to rise.
In February, Greater Noida resident Nirmal Kumar visited Shahberi to see a plot of land. “The property dealer told me I will get land at reasonable rates. It was well connected to Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida, in the middle of high-rise societies, he said. But when I went there, I saw haphazard construction. It was an unauthorised colony and buildings had come up without clearance from government authorities,” Kumar told The Indian Express.
On February 22, through a government online portal for registering complaints, Kumar wrote to the CMO, “I want to alert you about unabated illegal construction of multi-storey buildings in Shahberi village. Around 100 such buildings have either been constructed or are under construction. Without any layout approval or basic amenities — roads and sewer lines — these seven-eight-storey buildings have been built. This kind of continuous unauthorised and illegal development could be very dangerous to residents when more than 5,000 such flats get constructed here. It is a request that you stop this kind of construction otherwise the situation can become explosive.”
Similar letters were sent by Kumar to other government bodies — from the Department of Infrastructure and Industries, Uttar Pradesh Government, to the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority and the District Magistrate’s office.
Members of Gulshan Home, a building in the area, had filed an RTI to GNIDA in 2017, asking whether it was necessary for builders to get plans passed for buildings in the area, and had also written to the SSP in 2018 complaining that the builder had not provided them with infrastructure like a sewage drain despite promises. Sandeep Dubey, a resident, claimed they did not receive a response in either case. “Because there is no sewage line and no drains, all sewage water flows along the base of the building and seeps into the foundation, because of which foundations are rotting away and making buildings weaker,” he said.
In May, the RWA of Sai Garden II approached the District Magistrate on the issue of “illegal construction by builders and absence of basic amenities”. The RWA’s complaint, like Kumar’s, had been forwarded to GNIDA officials. In two replies to Kumar’s complaints — dated February 27 and April 26 — GNIDA said, “In village Shahberi, from time to time, notices under section 10 of the UP Industrial Area Development Act, 1976, have been issued, FIRs registered and drives to demolish illegal construction are conducted.”
As two GNIDA officials were suspended after the collapse, GNIDA CEO, in an official statement, said, “The incident happened in Shahberi, a notified village. But, the Hon’ble SC had quashed land acquisition of this village land on May 12, 2011.”
Meanwhile, the District Magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar issued a notice, setting the framework for an enquiry to be conducted by the ADM (E).
District Magistrate B N Singh said, “The National Security Act is to be invoked against builders, owners of land, and property dealers in this case. They are to be in custody for three months, and no bail is to be granted.”