CM Devendra Fadnavis announces probe into Ratnagiri dam burst incident
Chief minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday announced a probe into the Tiware dam breach incident that claimed at least 9 lives. Fourteen more from Chiplun in Ratnagiri district went missing on Tuesday.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a senior IAS officer will be set up to inquire into the accident. In a review meeting with local administration on Wednesday, Fadnavis directed water resources minister Girish Mahajan and Ratnagiri’s guardian minister Ravindra Waikar to visit the site of the accident.
“We have decided to constitute an SIT headed by a senior IAS officer. The government authorities had received complaints from the villagers that the water conservation department had carried out some repair works in May. It is a dam made of soil. The probe will ascertain if there were any lapses on part of the authorities,” Girish Mahajan told HT, after visiting the site on Wednesday.
According to the state’s disaster management unit (DMU) officials, Tiware dam, classified as a minor irrigation tank owned by the water conservation department, had been overflowing since 5pm on Tuesday evening. DMU officials said they received a call at 10pm that the dam wall had collapsed, following which rescue operations were conducted at midnight. The wall broke, washed off the soil fill and carried away 13 houses in the adjoining village of Bhendewadi, said a DMU official.
A total of 24 people from these houses went missing. The last repair of the dam wall had been done in 2008, the official said.
“We do regular audits of our dams and undertake maintenance work regularly. As per our records, all the dams in the state are in good condition,’’ said Mahajan.
Fadnavis, in his review, also asked concerned officials to take speedy steps to recover the missing bodies of the villagers. He also said that those found guilty would be punished after a detailed investigation.
Meanwhile, local villagers said they had recently complained about one side of the dam being damaged. On May 9, the damaged section was filled with soil after a district water conservation officer visited the dam and ordered the repair work, a DMU official said. The villagers have alleged that the contract for the dam’s construction was given to a company owned by a local Shiv Sena legislator Sadanand Chavan and his brother, more than 14 years ago.
In his response, Chavan said, “It is true that the dam was built by our company, but the responsibility of its maintenance was with the water conservation department. We cannot be blamed for this breach.”
Talking to HT, Shiv Sena MP from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Vinayak Raut said, “In the last week of May, I had visited Tiware village and the locals had complained about leakages in the dam. I had directed the local administration to pay attention to the complaints and prepare an estimate for the repairs. I was told that some minor repair work was done. As per my information, the dam breached at the jack well.’’
Jack well is a type of a well or tower constructed near the bank of a river.
After the tragedy, locals alleged that pleas of maintenance of the dam were neglected by the concerned authorities.
The Opposition also slammed the government apathy for the tragedy.
“The officials responsible should be booked under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), holding them responsible for the villagers’ loss of lives. Tiware dam was just 19 years old and such dams, made of soil, last for more than 50 years, so the breach is suspicious. The substandard work done by the department was responsible for the burst,” said Vijay Wadettiwar, Congress leader and leader of the Opposition in the legislative assembly.
Meanwhile, Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) state unit chief Jayant Patil questioned the government stating, “How many more lives are needed for the state government to wake up from its slumber.”