The Malin landslide was a disaster waiting to happen. It is mindlessness of authorities that invited the catastrophe in the wee morning hours, only to flatten an entire village into a slushy mound. Most houses along with the over 30 feet tall temple at the base of the hill, close to Dimbhe dam, are buried along with sleeping inmates. The village school and two-three houses are all that is left of Malin.
The residents, predominantly tribals – Koli Mahadeos, Thakars, Kathodis, Katkaris, Koli Dhors and Tokare Kolis were Dimbhe Dam oustees relocated in Ambegaon taluka. Following the ‘Tribal Settlement Plan’ the Tribal Development Department had relocated people in Malin that figured along with 30 other villages resettled in the vicinity. The fact that rainy season will have landslides occurring in the hills and ghats was completely overlooked.
It is well known that this area, tucked in the fragile ecological area in the valley of Sahyadri Hills, is prone to landslides. Unplanned urbanization has even farm-houses, roads, hotels, quarrying and other environmentally detrimental activities happening here. The area on hill slopes too is rife with unwarranted construction activities, in the hitherto unknown Malin.
However the powers-that-be knew full well Malin would face disaster. It was included in the list of ecologically fragile areas that were to be preserved. There is to be no human interference here as per the notification issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests in 2013 under list of State-wise, District-wise and Taluka-wise villages in ESA (Ecologically Sensitive Area). Malin along with a list of villages falls in this category.
It also appears that the comprehensive Western Ecology Report by Dr Madhav Gadgil, a scientist of International repute, had been pushed under the carpet. Other geology experts had warned of the likelihood of landslides in villages located along the backwaters of Dimbhe dam. The recommendation had been that the state government undertake a survey of villages to identify the hills that display “landslide symptoms”.
Geological Survey of India, Nagpur has sent a team to survey the area. The survey will identify cracks in hills, tilting of trees and electric poles and these signs will require villagers to be relocated to safer places. Actually the reason for landslide at Malin has also been due to leveling of hilly land for cultivation for which trees were uprooted. With nothing to allow the soil to hold on to, it became more prone to disaster. Also stone quarrying activity made land unstable leading to accelerating the landslide.
People had of course been reporting the hill slopes were unstable. Cracks in hillsides and houses, tilting of trees had been observed in villages in a five-kilometer radius of Dimbhe dam’s catchment area. With the incessant rainfall of monsoons, indiscriminate tree felling, excavation and construction activity the waters had seeped into the hills making the soil soft that gradually lead to the catastrophe.