Over a dozen landslides have occurred at Sinhgad Fort during this rainy season so far, putting security of thousands of visitors at risk.
A team of Geological Survey of India(GSI), which surveyed the June 30 Malin landslide, and other areas prone to such disasters had visited the fort area to assess the situation.
Locals do not rule out more such disasters. The road widening. work on around nine kilometre stretch towards the fort is being blamed for making the area prone to ‘unprecedented’ landslides.
“Around 13 landslides have taken place on the route towards Sinhgad Fort in the last 15 days. A few of them were so big that trucks carrying away debris had to make over 100 trips. As a fallout of the disaster, entry of visitors to the fort was banned for a few days as work of clearing the landslides was on. Such frequent landslides are uncommon on the route,” Gulabrao Thopte, one of the heads of local forest management committee from Thoptewadi village, told Newsline on Tuesday.
He said that several hills where road work was on were cut in an ‘unscientific manner’ by the Public Works Department (PWD), resulting in loosening of soil.
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The road work, which has financial outlay of around Rs 7 crore, had received funding through the Pune District Planning and Development Council (DPDC). Datta Jorkar, another head of the forest management committee at Sinhgad Fort, said landslides in such a large number would not have occurred, had the PWD taken proper care while widening the roads.
“During road widening, hills were cut the upper portion was unbalanced. No thought was given to what would happen to such imbalanced structure, especially during monsoon. Heavy machinery was used to cut hills. Around 100 feet around most part of the widened road has been weakened. Heavy downpour was recorded during second half of July. This made the soil more prone to landslides,” he said. Locals said landslides near the fort were a new phenomenon.
The forest management committee has advised tourists neither to park vehicles during their journey to Sinhgad in ghats nor roam around landslide-prone areas.
Located around 25-kilometre southwest of Pune, the fort is a popular tourist destination, especially during monsoon. Last weekend, around there were 1,332 two-wheelers and nearly 493 four-wheelers of tourists at Sinhgad Fort. Around 50 taxis also carry visitors.
Khadakwasla BJP MLA Bhimrao Tapkiar said he arrange joint visits of PWD and forest department officials. “Locals are claiming that hills were cut during road widening at Sinhgad resulting in landslides. I will press for steps to avoid any untoward incidents,” he said.
C T Naik, PWD deputy engineer, said road widening around steep ghats like Sinhgad Fort was bound to result in loosening of soil. “The road widening was carried out as per norms laid down by the forest department. The ghat sections are very steep. We carried out joint visits with the forest department officials. The forest department is in-charge of the land in the area and would take precautionary steps,” he said.