How do you get rid of a hillock that is coming in the way of your greed? If you ask a Chandivali builder, he would probably tell you to manufacture landslides.
Since 2009, Chandivali residents allege, a systematic operation has been on to loosen the soil on a hillock in the area to induce landslides when the monsoons hit. When a landslide does occur, its creators magnanimously offer to demolish the hillock in the interest of public safety, and their pockets.
According to the locals, there is only one hillock with natural tree and vegetation cover. It is not accessible to the public, and is enclosed by a perimeter fence. “Nearly five years ago, in 2009, we had frequently seen men with metal rods making their way up the hillock in twos and threes. They would surreptitiously pry open gaps between rocks and soft soil, thereby weakening the bonding. This operation was carried out in a low-profile manner to avoid garnering the attention of the people around the hill. I had asked a couple of men who they were and what they were doing on the hill, but they evaded my questions,” said a local resident.
After a few monsoon rain showers, the loosened rocks slid down the slope, creating a man-made landslide. Following this event, creators of this landslide called the police and the danger of such landslides to public safety was broadcast far and wide. “They even offered to demolish the entire hill,” he added. The residents believe that this was the handiwork of a builder, who is constructing a housing complex in the area.
Taking serious note of the incident, environment lovers from the area took up the issue and, with assistance from the local court, brought the damage of the hillock and trees to a halt.
Chandivali is illegally destroying a natural hill in the area which has natural tree and vegetation cover. The local resident has also clicked the picture of how a bulldozer is being used to destroy the hill last month.
“Within a few months, the exercise of covertly loosening-up the soil on top of the hillock was resumed. This time, fewer men did the task and at odd times of the day when no one would be watching. One resident, however, caught them and asked what was happening, and they claimed to be collecting firewood. Once, some trees were also set on fire,” said another resident.
The issue was raised once again and this activity was stopped.
Last month, a resident photographed a bulldozer on top of the hillock, which was being used to cause damage to the tree cover. And, sure enough, a landslide took place on July 18, after a prolonged spell of rain.
“Once again, the creators of this man-made landslide are expressing their ‘heartfelt’ pity and concern for the public at large and are more than eager to demolish the hillock and its vegetation. Around 9.30 am on July 20, two earthmoving vehicles began excavating the soil from the hilltop. We want the concerned authorities to immediately take action or this hillock will be destroyed,” said a resident.
Speaking to mid-day, H A Kale, ward officer (L-ward), said, “It will be wrong to say that the hillock is being destroyed and trees are being cut. Officials from the collector’s office and the geological survey department conducted a survey, after which we have given permission to the landowner to demolish the portion that can cause a landslide.”