Parts of Pune flooded as Mutha canal wall breaches
Parts of Pune city were inundated on Thursday following a major breach in the right wall of the Mutha canal, causing damage to homes situated along the Mutha riverfront area.Rescue teams and Fire department authorities, who rushed to the spot said there was no loss of life and that all people who were in harm’s way had been evacuated.According to authorities, the wall of the canal’s right bank caved in sometime after 10:30 a.m. in the morning, leading to flooding inside hundreds of shanties and slums in the city’s Parvati area, affecting more than 5,000 residents living in these parts. “The situation is under control now. The flow of water reduced by late noon,” said a fire department official.Irrigation department officials immediately stopped further discharge of water from the Khadakwasla dam — one of Pune’s lifelines — to the canal following the breach and said the matter was being investigated.Angry residents Angry residents surrounded Pune Mayor Mukta Tilak when she visited the homes of those afflicted. “All our utensils and savings have flown away. If this had occured at night, it might have led to great loss of life. The city’s politicians only come to us for votes during election time, but are least bothered in maintaining any infrastructure,” said an irate resident.Ms. Tilak however said that the Pune civic body had, in the pas,t warned the Irrigation Department authorities about repairing the canal wall, but the Irrigation authorities allegedly failed to take cognizance of it.“The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) will do everything to provide respite to those afflicted by this incident. We will make provisions for lodging those residents in temporary homes whose shanties have been destroyed by the discharge. We will make sure they are recompensed,” said Mayor Tilak.Smaller mud homes and tin-shed shanties across a 12-km stretch from the areas around the Khadakwasla dam to the Dandekar bridge were hit by the breach. Police personnel, who rushed to the spot, stopped traffic along the Dandekar bridge which remained submerged owing to the sudden flooding.“This is sheer negligence on part of authorities. The canal wall caved in owing to the tremendous force of the discharge from the Khadakwasla dam. The discharge has been going on at the rate of an excessive 1200 cusecs of water for more than a month. The question arises as to who authorized this discharge which could have proven fatal,” said noted city-based environmentalist and RTI activist Vivek Velankar, speaking to The Hindu.Demanding an explanation from the irrigation authorities for the sheer lack of maintenance of the structure, Mr. Velankar noted that the decision to release water was all the more mystifying as the city’s water needs were satisfied for the moment and the rains had stopped.“Currently, the city requires only 300 cusec of water to fulfill the needs of those living in the Cantonment area. So, what was the motive behind this excess discharge which put strain on the canal walls?” he said.The 140 km-long Mutha canal built during the period of the British Raj, which conveys the water from the Khadkwasla dam to Indapur tehsil, has scarcely been subject to audits on part of the State of civic body authorities. “This incident clearly proves the lack of any frequency audits to check the condition of the canal wall. The prime reason for this negligence is the eternal conflict between the State Irrigation Department and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) with both bodies passing the buck when it comes to maintenance of any structure,” said RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, speaking to The Hindu.