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Malin triggers Mumbai jitters

Mumbai, Aug. 1: This week’s devastating mudslide in Pune’s Malin village has raised the spectre of similar tragedies in Mumbai’s hilly areas, home to over one lakh slum dwellers and witness to several smaller landslips every year.

Information obtained by an RTI activist, Anil Galgali, shows that landslides killed 260 people and injured 270 in Mumbai and its suburbs between 1992 and 2013.

Devendra Amberkar, leader of the Opposition in the civic board, today wrote to municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte how the Malin landslide had highlighted “the danger to thousands of slum dwellers… in over 263 dangerous spots in hilly areas” in and around Mumbai.

“Apart from routinely serving them evacuation notices before the monsoon, the civic body does not take the issue seriously,” he wrote.

“Just yesterday, a six-year-old boy, Ganesh Khurade, was killed in a landslide in Chembur.”

He rued that the annual budget of the country’s richest civic body made no separate provisions to tackle the grave threat.

Amberkar advocated “protective walls” around these slums. “Since there is no budget allocation, I have requested the municipal commissioner to use emergency funds to construct these walls and make a substantial allocation in the next budget,” he said.

Galgali, the RTI activist, said Mumbai witnessed its worst recent landslide disaster during the massive cloudburst on July 26, 2005. It killed 72 people in the hill slums of Saki Naka in the western suburbs.

On July 13, 2000, a landslide had killed 70 slum dwellers in the Chiragnagar area of Ghatkopar in the eastern suburbs.

Galgali said the civic body, Mumbai Slum Improvement Board and the Mumbai suburban collector had surveyed the endangered hutments and sent a report to the state housing department in April 2010 but it “continues to await the government’s approval”.

He said that sometime later, the chief minister had ordered the urban development department to formulate an action plan within a month but it hasn’t been done though “nearly 34 months have passed”.

He said documents obtained from the state housing department showed the survey had identified 22,483 hutments in 327 dangerous hilly spots in the city and its suburbs.

The city alone had 49 spots with 3,986 hutments. The report recommended 2,303 of the hutments shifted urgently and the remaining 1,683 protected by building walls.