Government Neglect to Blame for Landslide in Malin?

Excess Deforestation to blame for Landslide in Malin, Pune?

Razan Breiwish Now

A child jumps over puddles of muddy water; another two are animatedly competing in the house yard to see who can collect the most rain in their bucket. Their parents sit on a ledge, contently and cautiously watching the kids frolic in the rain. Nature has its way of enticing us with its beauty, no doubt. However, meddle with it too much and nature can take a tragic turn.

On July 30th, in the early hours of the morning, heavy rains triggered a landslide in the village of Malin in Pune, located in the Indian state of Maharashtra. According to the Indian Express, it is believed that 44 houses are buried under the mud and debris of the landslide. It is further feared that about 51 villagers have lost their lives as a result of the landslide and approximately 120 villagers are still trapped.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have sent a 100-member team to Pune to work hand-in-hand with the locals to rescue those trapped. Locals remain hopeful, even though heavy rains and the remoteness of the area are a hindrance to rescue efforts. According to Hindustan Times, Pune District Collector Saurabh Rao said “As per our estimates, about 120 people are still trapped. The rescue operation is expected to be completed in two more days if heavy rain does not impede us.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Wednesday morning, “Loss of lives in landslide in Pune dist. is saddening. Spoke to Rajnath Ji [Home Minister] and he would be traveling to Pune to take stock of the situation.” The Pune District Magistrate has voiced concerns that there exists a possibility that more landslides may occur in other villages of Pune. The alarming bit involves claims that the landslide may have been triggered by rains, but the underlying cause was careless government practice.

According to Times of India, NGO Sahas Manch claims that the plotted land in Malin was not properly surveyed and massive deforestation is to blame for this tragedy. In addition, the place lacked in construction of stone bunds [to contain erosion] and nullahs [to allow proper drainage], which made the soil looser. These allegations are further supported, as the Union Ministry of  Environment and Forests reported in 2013 that the area of Malin is a no-development zone.

It is now a cliché to blame the government for anything that goes wrong in a country. ‘They didn’t act fast enough’ or ‘they didn’t send enough reinforcements’. However, after a tragedy like this [which could have been avoided if the government had not neglected ecological warnings], citizens need to take a closer look at what the government neglects, because their lives depend on it.

Stay strong and hopeful, Malin; you are in our prayers.

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