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Day after landslides in Mumbai, BMC and collector’s office pass the buck

Days before the onset of monsoon, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had written to the suburban collector’s office, expressing fear over casualties in case of heavy rainfall
By Mehul R Thakkar
PUBLISHED ON JUL 20, 2021 01:01 AM IST

Days before the onset of monsoon, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had written to the suburban collector’s office, expressing fear over casualties in case of heavy rainfall. BMC’s S ward, under which Vikhroli and Bhandup fall, had asked the collector’s office to make alternate arrangements for citizens residing on the hilltop, citing there are chances of an untoward incident, as monsoon was about to make landfall in the city.

On Sunday, two landslides were reported in the city, of which one took place in Surya Nagar at Vikhroli, where boulders fell due to heavy rain. Around seven to eight houses collapsed in the landslide, killing 10 – including two minors – while one person was injured. Another landslide was reported in New Bharat Nagar area of Mahul at Chembur, that resulted in the collapse of at least five houses and 19 deaths, including of five minors victims. Five more people were injured in the incident.

BMC claims S ward officials had written to the collector on June 7, warning of possible mishaps at the two areas where the landslides took place on Sunday, as the illegal structures are on the land owned by the suburban collector.

According to the letter, the ward had asked suburban collector Milind Borikar to take the required measures, as monsoon was expected to hit the city anytime soon. Suburban collector Milind Borikar was not available for comment. However, a senior official from his office said, “As per the state government’s directives, it’s BMC’s responsibility to clear encroachment irrespective of title of the land. The deputy collector (encroachment removal) works under housing department and not under the collector. We’ve submitted our detailed reply in a petition in the Bombay high court.”

BMC had also written to the disaster management authority, expressing concerns of an untoward incident in the hilltop, where the slums located.

“Prepare a plan for rescue operation during any mishap such as landslide, collapse of dilapidated structure removal of material, firefighting measures, rescue of affected people etc and submit it to Hon’ble M.C (municipal commissioner) with your suggestions (sic),” S ward’s letter to the disaster management authority on May 24 read.

Rescue operations at both Mahul and Vikhroli seemed difficult owing to the narrow lanes at the site.

A civic official from S ward said, “We had written to all the required authorities in advance as around 400,000 people in the ward reside in slums that are mostly located on hilltops. We are ready to give the collector’s office all the support on where to shift citizens who are at landslide-prone areas. For now, we have shifted 30 citizens from Surya Nagar slums to safe locations in civic-run schools.”

The suburbs have around 250 landslide spots, of which 150 are in S ward. According to a report prepared by BMC’s disaster management cell, areas around hill slopes in Ghatkopar, Bhandup and Kurla are more prone to landslides, and slum populations residing on these hill slopes are at high risk.

Between 2011 and 2018, 16 incidents of landslides were reported in the Island city, while 58 in eastern suburbs and 20 in the western suburbs, in which nine people died and 26 were injured.

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