As the water level on roads near Dandekar bridge reached knee-deep levels, traffic police started blocking all vehicles headed that way. Police evicted residents of all the local shanties, which were flooded.

Hundreds of residents of Janta Vasahat were left homeless after their shanties were flooded by water gushing in from a canal of the Khadakwasla dam after part of the wall guarding the canal caved in near Dandekar bridge on Thursday morning.  As the water flowed out of the canal through the damaged wall, it flooded Sinhagad Road and made its way to the Ambil Odha, which is occupied by slums.

The incident created panic among local residents, who ran out of their houses, while commuters were stranded during peak hours as local roads were flooded, leading to massive traffic jams. While the traffic between Swargate and Sinhagad Road was halted, the chaos threw traffic out of gear on adjoining roads such as Lal Bahadur Shastri Road and Tilak Road.

As the water level on roads near Dandekar bridge reached knee-deep levels, traffic police started blocking all vehicles headed that way. Police evicted residents of all the local shanties, which were flooded. Officials of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and Irrigation Department rushed to the location, while authorities also stopped the release of water from Khadakwasla dam.

“It was an unfortunate incident. The Irrigation Department has stopped the flow of water with immediate effect. There was no loss of life but a large number of people who lived in the local slums were affected. Repair work of the canal wall will be undertaken on a war footing,” said Guardian minister Girish Bapat.

Later in the day, when Mayor Mukta Tilak visited the area, she had to face the wrath of the local residents, who alleged that the negligence of authorities had led to such a situation and they had lost everything. Tilak said the PMC has made temporary arrangements for the affected people in local schools run by the civic body. “The PMC will provide food and accommodation to the affected people,” she said.

The Irrigation Department has already started repair work on the canal, said Additional Municipal Commissioner Sheetal Teli-Ugale. She said there was a need to undertake a structural audit of the canal wall and the civic body will provide all possible help to the Irrigation Department for the repair work.

“The PMC immediately pressed eight ambulances in service in the area… the PMC’s fire station department, along with the local police, were also involved in ensuring that local residents were safe,” Teli-Ugale said at a meeting of the PMC General Body. She said given the extent of the damage, the civic body will urge the state government to provide financial assistance. “Efforts will be made to procure financial assistance for the affected people from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund,” said Sheetal Teli-Ugale.

However, within hours of the incident, the Irrigation Department and the PMC started blaming each other for not repairing the canal wall. In the General Body meeting, corporators from various parties took on the civic administration as well as the Irrigation Department, accusing both of negligence and of ignoring the warnings raised by them.

“The situation was so serious that people were running to safer places. They could save their lives but lost all their belongings as the water washed away everything,” said NCP leader and corporator Priya Gadade.

Shiv Sena corporator Prithviraj Sutar said, “The irrigation department and PMC have been ignoring the poor condition of the canal by putting the onus of repair on each other. The department had asked the PMC to undertake the repair work but the civic administration had said the canal was the responsibility of the irrigation department. However, it is the local residents who have suffered due to it.”

BJP corporator Prasanna Jagtap said, “The canal wall has been in a poor condition for years. I have been demanding that it be repaired as I feared that such an incident would affect those living in its vicinity. The irrigation department had not taken the issue seriously but now it should learn a lesson and take up repair work of the entire stretch of the
canal wall, which starts in Dhayari on Sinhagad Road and passes through Hadapsar on Solapur Road.”

Former Mayor and NCP leader Dattatraya Dhankawade said, “I had raised the issue of canal wall repair with the guardian minister during my tenure as the mayor. The BJP government in the state had ignored it.”

Corporators representing areas of Sinhagad Road and Solapur Road urged the civic administration to take up a survey of the canal wall to identify those parts which were susceptible to damage, and which needed to be repaired immediately.

The Irrigation Department said nearly 250 million litres of water was lost due to the breach in the canal wall. “Work to repair the canal wall has started on a war footing and it will be completed in 24 hours,” said department officers. They said till the repair work was completed, the supply of drinking water to parts of the city and its adjoining areas would be affected.

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