The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had, in a pre-monsoon exercise, identified 288 spots in Mumbai that are vulnerable to mudslides of the kind that claimed 10 lives on Thursday night.
These spots were to be secured by retaining walls before the monsoon. The walls were supposed to have been built by the slum repair board of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA).
However, so far, only 74 such walls have been built or are under construction. Of these, 54 are in Kurla alone, close to where Thursday’s mudslide occurred. More than 25 shanties were affected as a boulder on which the huts were built crumbled after heavy rain.
However, the area affected by the mudslide was not among those secured by a retaining wall. This, despite a similar mudslide claiming 78 lives during the July 26, 2005, deluge just metres away.
“MHADA was supposed to have constructed these retaining walls, the budget for which was Rs 19 crore,” said Municipal Commissioner Jairaj Phatak.
According to data available with the BMC, Kurla has a population of over 7.3 lakh, of which 6.58 lakh people live in slums.
Civic officials said there are about 200 semi-permanent structures in the area, and their residents had been served evacuation notices just before the monsoon. However, they decided to stay put.
Phatak added that lack of police protection makes it very difficult for civic officials to take action against unauthorised constructions.
“Once our dedicated force is ready, we will be more equipped to take action and prevent people from returning once they have been evacuated,” Phatak said.
The fire brigade had a tough time carrying out rescue operations at the site of the mudslide as the approach roads are narrow. All rescue and debris removal operations had to be conducted manually and were time-consuming.