Mumbai-Pune Expressway landslide: State wakes up, plans series of safety measures

It took the deaths of two people for the government to act to prevent future deaths on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway due to landslides; sensors to be fitted to give warnings, tunnels to have concrete dome-like extensions

The State government is finally planning a host of measures to prevent landslides from wreaking havoc on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Nets installed on the rocks along the highway will be replaced and nailed in with bigger nails that can withstand more weight.

A damaged car outside the Adoshi tunnel after the landslide on Sunday. Pic/PTI
A damaged car outside the Adoshi tunnel after the landslide on Sunday. Pic/PTI

The steps come in the wake of the deaths of two motorists on the Expressway due to a landslide near the Adoshi tunnel on Sunday (July 19). Early-warning apparatus like sensors will be fitted on landslide-prone hills along the Expressway. These electronic sensors will trigger sirens in case loose soil or boulders come off the hills.

This advance warning will help the authorities in alerting motorists and, thereby, avoid subsequent accidents. The existing tunnels will be extended by constructing dome-like concrete structures to prevent any fatalities that landslides could cause. These domes, which will be on either side of the tunnel, will run a considerable length, said sources. These will act as a roof over the road to prevent any deaths due to landslides.

Sources in the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) said that Public Works Minister (MSRDC) Eknath Shinde will make a statement in the legislature later this week. Shinde had a meeting with experts and related departments in Mumbai on Monday evening. Today, the minister will visit landslide-prone sites, including the one near Adoshi tunnel.

Shinde confirmed his proposed visit. “We will take all preventive measures to avert landslides and deaths on the Expressway,” he told mid-day on Tuesday. MSRDC has already decided to replace the old safety nets and put in new ones with 12-metre nails, so that they can withstand more weight and heavy boulders.

The Adoshi landslide happened because of the weak nets (‘Weak net blamed for E-way landslide’, July 21). These nets were not maintained properly after the defect liability period had expired in 2013.

Khandala tunnel
The plan to dig a tunnel under the Khandala Ghat is back on the table. MSRDC has revised a plan to construct a 9.9-km tunnel to bypass the difficult Khandala-Lonavala and other ghat sections. If constructed, this will be the second largest tunnel in the country after the Jawaharlal Nehru tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir.

Shinde told mid-day that the proposal would be tabled before the state Cabinet for approval in the coming weeks. As per initial estimates, Rs 7,000 crore will be needed for constructing the tunnel in five years. This 8-lane tunnel between Khalapur and Kusgaon will run under the Lonavala lake. The water resources department has given its no-objection certificate to it.

The project has been in limbo for four years because a tussle between the two parties in the erstwhile government, Congress and NCP, which controlled MSRDC in sharing of departments. Other than saving motorists from landslides and other commuting woes, the tunnel will reduce the travel time between Mumbai and Pune by 25 minutes.

E-way will be operational, says minister
Dismissing rumours that the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and old Mumbai-Pune Highway will be closed for repairs, daily between 10 am and 5 pm, for 10 days beginning July 22, PWD (MSRDC) minister Eknath Shinde said no such decision has been taken.

“We will remove loose soil and boulders wherever spotted along the Expressway. However, we will ensure that the road is not shut entirely when this work is carried out. We will block some lanes whenever needed and, yet, ensure smooth traffic,” he said.

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