DTCP asks Ambience Group to build retaining wall adjacent to Shri Ram School

The department of town and country planning (DTCP) in Gurugram issued a second notice to the Ambience Group on Friday to take corrective action by building a retaining wall adjacent to The Shri Ram School, whose structure has developed cracks over the last two years due to deep digging carried out by the developer for a commercial complex next door.

The department gave 10 days to the Ambience Group to comply with the directions, or face action, DTCP officials aware of the matter said.

The district town planner (DTP) had issued the first notice to the developer on September 9, directing it to construct retaining walls along the boundary of the school. Retaining walls are used to support soil laterally, so that it can be retained at different levels. They are often used in the construction of large basements.

The problem dates back to 2018, when Ambience Group started deep digging in areas adjoining the northern boundary wall of the school, after which cracks started appearing on the walls of the school’s chemistry lab. Apprehending further damage and soil erosion, the school approached the developer, who carried out repair work and promised to take preventive measures as construction continued, the officials cited above said.

The matter flared up the following year, when portions of the compound north of the school building started to cave in, leading to the institution being shut for a week. On July 22, 2019, The Shri Ram School wrote to the Gurugram deputy commissioner, who directed the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) to prepare a fact-finding report. In its report, submitted on July 23 last year, MCG noted that the basement construction work had caused soil erosion and cracks in the school building. MCG’s memo directed the DTP to issue stern directions to the developer, and ensure remedial measures were taken.

This August, however, the school reported a cave-in due to soil erosion near a manhole in the sports field, and the reappearance of cracks on the walls of the building. On August 26, the school wrote to the deputy commissioner for the second time, and the DTCP was asked to intervene to take appropriate steps.

“The safety of the students and the school is top priority for the department. We have issued a second notice to the developer on Friday and directed it to take corrective measures within 10 days. Action will be initiated as per the rules if corrective steps are not taken,” said RS Bhath, district down planner.

Since 2018, the school has submitted two representations to the deputy commissioner, two to the DTP, and approached the environment and disaster management authorities. The school’s chairman, Arun Bharat Ram, has written to chief minister ML Khattar.

While the school awaits remedial measures, it has cordoned off parts of the campus due to safety concerns. When HT visited the site on Thursday, cracks could be seen in some areas, including the chemistry lab.

Besides the school authorities, parents of several students have also raised the alarm about the situation. While the school has not been holding physical classroom sessions due to the coronavirus disease pandemic, students in Classes 10 and 12 have been going for practical lessons.

A delegation of parents that visited the school on Thursday said the lack of action by the developer was a cause for worry. “Due to the construction on the adjacent site, cracks have appeared in the school building. It’s a major safety issue that deserves urgent attention. The developer has not responded to the school’s requests with any remedy,” said Avantika Madan, executive member of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).

“Our children are losing out by not going into areas such as labs that are crucial for their education. We need this issue to be rectified since it concerns the safety of our children and has been pending resolution since a long time,” she added.

Rachna Vohra, another parent, said that the playground and some buildings were not safe due to the damage. “Due to the massive digging, there has been excessive soil erosion. Severe damage could take place if there’s any natural calamity,” said Vohra, who is an urban planner.

Another parent, Kaushal Sheth, who is an architect, said a retaining wall needed to be constructed.

The chairman of the Ambience Group, Raj Singh Gehlot, contended that the safety and security of the school structure was not compromised by the construction. “The generator of the school suffered damage two years back, and I got it repaired. I assure the school and authorities that the safety of the school structure is not compromised by our work. If at all there are any issues, we will get it repaired on our own cost,” Gehlot said.

When asked to comment on the construction of the retaining walls, Gehlot said that the school was free to build the wall on their land. “The school can build the wall on their own land. I will not give up on my ownership of the land,” said Gehlot.

Gurugram deputy commissioner Amit Khatri, however, said that the administration had taken cognisance of the matter and the DTP would take appropriate action.

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