An awareness drive could have helped villagers to see the landslide coming, said the GSI, citing a successful drive in Raigad district in 2012
As the death count at Malin rose to 130 on Monday, a highly placed official at the Geological Survey of India (GSI) said that the tragedy could have been avoided by the district administration. The GSI has concluded from preliminary investigations that the landslide was not a sudden disaster; there had been indications of an impending natural disaster there.
After a landslide wrecked Malin village on Wednesday, a GSI team went to the site to study what had happened. Several structures, including at least 48 houses, had been flattened in the incident. However, the team found the local school had remained unharmed.
Looking closer, they discovered that two buildings near the school had old cracks running along the walls. These cracks indicated that there had already been ground movement at the village before the landslide, said the Deputy Director General of Geological Survey of India (Central region), A K Saha, speaking exclusively with mid-day.
“If the district administration had conducted an awareness drive to teach the villagers how to identify signs of natural disasters, they would have informed the administration about the cracks well in advance, and the administration could have moved the villagers to safety,” said Saha.
He cited the example of a successful awareness drive the GSI had conducted in Raigad district in 2012. After repeated landslides during the monsoon season in Raigad, the district administration asked the GSI to conduct an awareness drive. Each of the 137 villages had sent a representative to attend the programme organised by the GSI. “The villagers are now so alert, that they immediately report any sign of a natural disaster to the district administration,” said Saha.
What makes the tragedy worse is that the government had been warned about the risk of landslides in the region as early as 2007. Saha added, “When we were studying the landslide incidents in Raigad, we found that Kolwadi and Jambhori (adjoining Malin village) were also at high risk. We submitted reports to the state government in 2007.”
Malin, which has deeper slopes than either of the two villages, was obviously at even higher risk, Saha pointed out. Despite the warning, the district administration had not taken any precautions, stated Saha, adding further that even the Malin landslide has not prompted the administration to conduct a drive.
Divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh has, meanwhile, refused to comment on the issue until he has more information. “I will discuss this issue with GSI team and only then can I speak about the subject,” he said.