A landslide near Panjarpol square on the Eastern Freeway brought traffic to a halt for nearly three hours on Thursday morning.
No one was injured in the incident.
Adding to the commuters’ woes was an impromptu protest staged by the Shiv Sena and Republican Party of India (Athavale) party workers, who held a rasta rook for another 20 minutes.
According to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority ( MMRDA), the landslide occurred at 11am on the northbound side of the freeway, around 100 metres away from the Panjarpol tunnel.
An MMRDA official said they had anticipated such an accident because the rock was weathering and breaking down into pieces.
The official said they had taken precautionary measures to reduce the impact of any such landslide.
“We have put up net and rock anchors on the hill side facing the road. We had anticipated trouble at the spot near the Panjarpol tunnel, and had covered it with a rope-net. However, we could not fix rock anchors,” said an official, adding that the net prevented the debris from falling down on to the road.
Traffic was stopped immediately after the landslide and was allowed only after it was determined that the freeway was safe.
However, the two cranes clearing the debris slowed down the movement of vehicles.
According to officials, the work of clearing the debris s t arted around 1 1 . 45pm. However, it had to be stopped around 1.30pm after Sena and RPI (A) party workers staged a protest.
Work resumed after 20 minutes, and the debris were cleared from the spot by evening, said Dilip Kawathkar, MMRDA spokesperson.
Many commuters complained of their schedules going haywire not only because of the landslide, but the protests that followed.
“We are already facing trouble because of poor condition of the roads. The traffic is moving slowly and to add to that political parties are trying to gain political mileage from the situation,” said Ankit Desai, who works for a private firm.
The MMRDA had opened a part of the freeway — Orange gate to Panjarpol (13.6km) — on June 13 this year while the remaining 2.8km portion from Ghatkopar to Mankhurd Link Road is anticipated to be ready by end of this year.
Although the freeway is offering smooth and faster ride reducing distance between south Mumbai and Chembur to just 15 minutes, both openings of the freeway witness huge traffic congestion following traffic jams on the P D’Mello Road and Panjarpol square.