BMC, govt yet to realise gravity of Mumbai’s vulnerability to landslides, earthquakes

Most disasters show tell-tale signs before they take place, but local authorities and residents tend to ignore them. This was what an expert said on disaster management, a talk organised as part of the Indian Science Congress at the Kalina campus of Mumbai University on Tuesday.SS Thigale, former head of geology department at Pune University, explained it in terms of a landslide. “Landslides are predictable hazards. We had collected data on 90 landslides which took place in different parts of Maharashtra. There are clear signs such as developing of cracks on the slopes and tilting of vertical objects like trees and poles,” Thigale said, adding that many of them are a result of levelling of slopes, cutting of trenches on the rocks, felling of trees and construction of houses there, which adds weight.The 17 landslides that took place in the Konkan region in 1983, which followed the Koyna earthquake of 1967, had shown such signs. “Yet nobody took it seriously,” he added.Surprisingly, even the recent landslide in Malin that claimed 150 lives had been showing such signs since 2003. Thigale had prepared a comprehensive report on Malin and some of the surrounding villages and sent it to the Union government through an NGO much before the disaster took place. But the government had failed to act on it.Mumbai, too, is prone to disasters like earthquakes and landslides. The speakers unanimously agreed that Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation as well as the state government are yet to realise the seriousness of the situation.Shailesh Nayak, secretary, union ministry of Earth Sciences, said, “Municipal and local bodies have an important role to play when it comes to disasters. They should assist the NDRF team and have a strong communication channel.”V Subramanyan, former professor of geology, IIT-Bombay, said that despite BMC framing a comprehensive plan for disasters in 2002, the 2005 deluge showed the plan had not been implemented. “Even after that the BMC is yet to ensure the disaster preparedness of Mumbai. Despite having so many landslide-prone spots in the city, the BMC only issues notices to residents staying there and says the land belongs to the collector,” he said.Subramanyan added that the civic body should instead use a part of its budget to stabilise slopes, construct more retaining walls and inspect buildings to check if they are earthquake resistant.”The state government and NGOs should chip in to create awareness among city residents about different types of disasters,” said Subramanyan.Mumbai and its surrounding areas is prone to earthquakes of magnitude ranging from 6.2 to 6.5. The BMC has identified 321 landslide-prone spots in the city and commissioned IIT-Bombay to prepare a report on it. Landslide-prone spots in cityThere are 321 landslide-prone spots in Mumbai, of which 94 are located on collector’s land, six on Mhada land, 31 on BMC land, 188 on private land and 2 on forest land. N-ward has 43 such spots on collector’s land, P-North has 14 on private land, S-ward has 150 such spots on private land.

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Authorities ignore tell-tale signs of disaster: Expert