A landslide occurred on Sinhagad ghat on Sunday morning, blocking the road for tourists who had gathered there in large numbers. Though the road clearing work was undertaken immediately, the ghat section is likely to remain closed for a long period, now.

As the landslide occurred early at 4am, no tourists were trapped on the fort. Last time when the landslide occurred in the ghat section, tourists were trapped on the fort for several hours.

The forest department closed down the road from the starting point and diverted the traffic flow. Sinhagad fort is a famous tourist destination near Pune and attracts thousands of people every day. The number escalates during weekends and monsoon seasons.

Officials from the forest department said that heavy downpour for the last five days caused the landslide near Umbardand point. The point is one kilometre away from the top of the fort and 8 kilometres from base. The villagers who travel to fort early in the morning for business, informed the forest officials about the incident. Balasaheb Jivade, forest guard, rushed to the spot, along with Suresh Paygude and Kailas Jedhe, Sinhagad protection committee members.

“Fortunately the landslide happened early in the morning, and hence there was no casualty. We have already started clearing the debris with the help of earthmoving machines but the road will remain closed for a while. Once our team inspects the region and gives the nod, it will be decided upon,” said Jivade.

This ghat section of the fort has been in the headlines for being unsafe for travel due to lack of protective measures and bad roads. The 9 kilometre stretch has many landslide prone spots. Safety nets were supposed to be fixed on all the landslide prone spots before the monsoon starts, to prevent landslide. The forest department, however says that it is practically impossible to get it fixed.

The forest department and the public works department have already spentRs20 lakhsfor the restoration of the road and the Maharashtra government had allotted a fund of Rs 5 crore for the Sinhagad ghat work.

Pravin Pote Patil, minister of state, had said while speaking in the assembly that help would be sought from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) engineers for getting the protective measures in place and the work will be completed by March 2018 which has not happened.

Shreelaxmii Annabathula, deputy conservator of forest, said, “ The entire stretch of 9 kilometre is landslide prone and it is very difficult to check where it will occur. Last year, we had installed some protection nets with help from the public works department but no one can restrict landslides.”

RM Naikade, former deputy conservator of forest, who was in-charge of the region last year, said, “ The strata of the ghat section is different than the Mumbai-Pune express highway, where safety nets are used. Nets can be used to for hard rock like Basalt, but here we have loose boulders and murum soil and it is impossible to put safety net for such a terrain. Secondly it has a steep slope and huge exposure. So building a protective wall is also not practically possible.”

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