ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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When Will They Ever Learn

Ecologically insensitive developmental policies cause "natural" disasters like Malin.

Landslides are common in hilly areas when there are torrential rains. But when does the “natural” become “unnatural”? This is the question people are asking after the terrible tragedy that befell a small village just 120 km outside Pune. At 7.30 am on a rainy monsoon morning on 30 July, the village of Malin in Pune district’s Ambegaon taluka vanished. Within minutes, it was buried under tonnes of rock and mud that rained down on it. Trapped in their homes were over 150 inhabitants of the village, including 21 children. They had no chance of survival. It took more than a week to dig their inert bodies out of the rubble. Once the mass funeral was held, and the survivors on the periphery were moved to safer locations, the discussion inevitably turned to the reason for the disaster. Was it man made or an act of “nature” for which no one could be held responsible?

For the survivors of Malin, these questions are purely academic as they consider how to reconstruct their broken lives. But for scores of other small villages like theirs, located on steep slopes along the Western Ghats, or elsewhere in the country, the answer to this question could mean life or death, literally. In the case of Malin, the preliminary report of the Geological Survey of India suggested that the use of heavy machinery to level the ground above Malin could have been one cause for the 300-foot landslide. Only a detailed investigation will establish the precise reasons.

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