BMC spikes rumours of 26/7 repeat

Mumbai :  The BMC on Thursday was grappling not just with water logging but also with rumours that a cloudburst had brought outstation trains emanating from Mumbai to a standstill. The rumour went viral on social networking sites such as Twitter. Apparently the city is yet to banish the ghost of 26/7, when large tracts of the suburbs were submerged.

The rumour mill went into overdrive with the buzz on What’s App that Mumbai and surrounding cities like Pune, Surat, Nashik, Baroda and even Ahmedbad would receive the highest rainfall ever in the next 24 hours and advising travellers to avoid long-distance journey.  The rumour was given further credence with the message saying that a red alert had been issued by the AMC (presumably the additional municipal commissioner).

Even reputed Twitter handles such as @trafflinemum succumbed to the rumour and had not reportedly corrected themselves till late evening.

Anjum Shaikh, a third-year dental student who had to return to Khed, was in a dilemma after reading the message on WhatÆs App. However when she check-

ed out the status of the train, policies are becoming increasingly visible. The lack of cooperation and active stonewalling of the WGEEP is one such case in point, which is very relevant to the area where the landslide has occurred. Had environ-mental recommendations been followed, in particular those relating to deforestation and protection of the ecological balance of the area, perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided,” she has written in her letter.

The ecological experts’ panel on Western Ghats, too, had made some specific observations on the proposed windmills and development of the area near Bhimashankar, where Malin village is situated. WGEEP had alleged collusion between the Forest Department and certain windmill operators to permit large-scale deforestation in this environmentally fragile area. WGEEP had even specifically mentioned the danger of landslides after conducting site visits and noting the deliberate destruction being caused to the area.

A Ministry of Environ-ment and Forest notification last year too had cited the fragile nature of the Western Ghat ecosystem and had warned of the threat from developmental activities. The notification had ordered immediate halt to sand mining and quarrying; construction of thermal power plants; and building and construction of township projects of specific area. “Malin along with a host of other villages falls into this category,” several environmentalists have pointed out.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan too mentioned the concerns expressed by the environmentalists during the cabinet meeting on Thursday. “There are several villages near the Sahaydri mountain range. There are incidents of landslide due to cutting of trees as well as construction activities on the hills. Mountains have been flattened for agriculture”, he said.

“Since environmental experts have informed that the Malin landslide occurred due to such activities, if necessary, a policy would be prepared to tackle such activities,” Chavan said later.

Official sources also said that the Maharashtra state government is likely to order a probe into the incident and announce compensation after a detailed report of the devastation is prepared by the state’s relief and rehabilitation department. It is likely to be cleared by the cabinet next week.

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