Officials Say the Malabar Hill Landslide May Have Been Preventable Had the BMC Acted in 2019

Officials Say the Malabar Hill Landslide May Have Been Preventable Had the BMC Acted in 2019

The recent landslides in Malabar Hill raised quite a few questions about the safety and the precautionary measures that could have potentially avoided the unfortunate incident. Today, documents accessed by Mumbai Mirror reveal that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) may have known for at least one year that a landslide was imminent at Malabar Hill. 

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A BMC official said that there was an audit of all hilltop reservoirs was conducted by the BMC’s hydraulic engineering department in July 2019. This was done after a part of retaining wall near the Malad reservoir collapsed leading to the death of 31 people. 

Also in July 2019, the BMC reportedly finalized a draft tender for “slope protection work, rockfall mitigation work and canopy work at Kamla Nehru Park, Malabar Hill.” However, as we now know, the project never really started after the draft was finalized by the civic body. This lackadaisical attitude regarding the maintenance of hilly regions may have led to the recent landslide at Malabar Hill. 

The recent landslide has also caused significant traffic disruption with authorities closing the surrounding roads to clear out debris and soil. Authorities have said that the repairs on this road could take more than three months, adding further inconvenience to commuters on its path. 

Additionally, several pipelines that are essential for the water supply in key regions of Mumbai have been damaged as a consequence of the landslide, leaving up to 700 buildings in the affected area entirely dependent on water tankers. 

“The downpour last Wednesday led to an increase in water pressure, which caused the retaining wall to give in. According to a team from IIT, a 150-metre stretch of Ridge Road has sunk by four to six feet. The landslide also damaged a 220-metre stretch of Pedder Road,” a civic official said. 

Investigations have revealed that water was gathering between the hill slope and the retaining wall for a long duration, leading to the weakening of both the hill and the supporting walls. 

An anonymous official talking to Mumbai Mirror said, “A detailed audit had been done [in 2019] and it was found that the slope of Malabar Hill around the reservoir needed urgent repairs. The audit revealed that there was a need for slope stabilisation, soil stabilisation, construction of a cement wall, and the setting up of nets to prevent a landslide. A draft tender was created but it then went into cold storage.” 

It is said that this project was expected to cost Rs 90 crore, but the figure was later brought down to Rs 60 crore. However, the official said that works on the project never began, adding that if the soil stabilization work had been done in time, the recent landslide around Pedder Road may have been avoided. 

In response to this, Additional Municipal Commissioner P Velrasu said that fixing the hills will now be a priority. “We will also increase the capacity of the Malabar Hill reservoir and find out why the project was delayed,” he said.

Also read - Peddar Road Landslide: How A BMC Official's Alertness Saved Lives