Disaster waiting to happen in the heart of Pune

Aug 01, 2014, 04:16 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

Residents in 170 houses in the Ramnagar area live under a crumbling rocky cliff; PMC officials warn that all it would take to trigger a landslide is heavy rainfall or even a tremor

Pune: While reports trickle in of the rising death toll after the landslide at Malin village, there are fears that a similar disaster is just waiting to happen at the Ramnagar area in Yerawada. As many as 170 houses in the area lie at the foot of a rocky cliff that has already begun crumbling after lashing rains in the city.

The PMC has had to send in machinery to clear the chunks of rocks that are already falling from the cliff.

The PMC has already recognised the threat that the cliff poses to the residents. Sandhya Gangre, assistant commissioner of the Yerawada ward said on Thursday, “The entire Ramnagar vasti is situated under the hillock. The situation is grave; a landslide could take place there at any time.” Apart from the houses situated in the area, there is also a school there for the local children.

Even as chunks of rock fall from the cliff onto the settlement, residents refuse to leave the area
Even as chunks of rock fall from the cliff onto the settlement, residents refuse to leave the area

On Thursday, with the Malin landslide in the backdrop, the PMC began making announcements about the danger in the area on loudspeakers. According to Gangre, Ramnagar residents have been told to evacuate the area several times, to no avail.

“Once again, today we served notices to all 170 houses which are under severe threat from a landslide. But the residents are in no mood to vacate their houses,” she said. In fact, if the PMC’s disaster management cell is to be believed, the residents have ignored such notices for the past five years.

However, instead of forcing an evacuation to protect the residents’ lives, the PMC seems helpless, simply waiting for the residents to make up their minds. In the meanwhile, they have opted for a temporary solution – installing a net to minimise the impact of any falling rocks. “On June 30, the state government asked PMC to submit a list of danger-prone areas. We had sent a proposal of R3 crore to put up a net and compound wall at the Ramnagar area,” a senior PMC official said.

PMC City Engineer Prashant Waghmare was not even aware of what was happening at the area. “As per my information, we had built a retaining wall there after an earlier wall had collapsed. The zonal office will have more information,” he said.

While the residents are very aware of the danger that hangs over them, they have reached an impasse with the PMC, which has classified their houses as illegal settlements. Gangre said, “Besides encroaching on the area in a massive way to build their houses, the people have also levelled the hillock to create more space. So much so that now at the top, only a big fang-like cliff remains hanging. Excessive rainfall or even a tremor can lead to a landslide there. We had already placed a board there, informing them that the whole area is a danger zone and that the residents should evict their homes.”

The PMC has offered rehabilitation in Hadapsar as well. But the residents are unwilling to relocate, claiming Ramnagar is their home, and that they have lived there for decades. “People just not willing to leave, saying they have lived there for the past 30 years. Instead, many of them have even built RCC structures, increasing the chances of a landslide,” an official said.

Local Shiv Sena corporator Sanjay Bhosale, has encouraged the residents to continue their battle with the PMC. “Ramnagar has witnessed landslide in the past. But the PMC’s claim that the 170 houses situated under the hill fall in a danger zone is completely wrong,” Bhosale said. “99 per cent of the houses are RCC constructions, with a ground plus one structure. Ramnagar is not a slum. People have been living here since before 1995. The Corporation just wants to shift their responsibility. Hence, instead of taking safety measures, it is serving eviction notices to all the residents,” he added.

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