Though a landslide threat faces thousands of families, the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) is not taking concrete steps to prevent disaster.
Every monsoon, there are fatal incidents reported but the GVMC is not constructing retaining concrete walls to save families located on the hillocks in the city.
With the continuous heavy rains, a large number of houses constructed on the hillocks are in danger after the soil has eroded, and the residents are tense. In the recent heavy rains, two deaths reported in a landslide, and many houses are in danger.
With a large number of guest workers, particularly from the working class, in the city, living space has become a problem and they take shelter on the hill slopes. Some influential local leaders are making money by constructing houses and sheds for the weaker sections and selling them. With this, a large number of residential colonies have developed on the slopes. In several areas, the residents have become big vote banks for political leaders.
The GVMC is constructing staircases, providing street lighting and water supply to the these houses and collecting taxes from the residents. According to GVMC statistics, there are about 35 residential colonies on the hillocks located in Gajuwaka, Pendurty, Malkapuram, Madhavadhara, Thatichetlapalem, Simhachalam, Ravindranagar, and Hanumanthawaka, Arilova, and other areas.
After a series of landslides five years ago, the GVMC identified several vulnerable colonies prone to landslides at Gajuwaka, Marripalem, Madhavadhara, Kancharapalem, Thatichetlapalem Ravindranagar, Hanumathawaka junction and other areas. The hillocks in these areas contain red soil which erodes easily during heavy rains.
During the past decade in the absence of green cover, rocky areas have been spotted on several hillocks.
“I am not aware of the survey of the vulnerable colonies in terms of landslide threat. However, during the rainy season, the corporation is alerting families residing on the hillocks and hill slopes. During the heavy rains, the soil is eroded and the residents should be on high alert, Vidyullatha, chief city planner, GVMC, said.
Officials in the GVMC engineering section accept that because of lack of enforcement, illegal residential colonies were formed on the hillocks. Due to political pressures and other influences, the authorities say that they fail to stop the encroachments of the hillocks.
“The issue is very sensitive. If we forcibly vacate families, the corporation has to offer alternative shelter. There will be local protests and political pressure on the officials. As the GVMC general elections are ahead, political leaders are reluctant to clear the houses on the hillocks. In an alternative step, the corporation has conducted a survey to arrest the issue by constructing concrete retaining walls. But huge amounts of money are required for that,” a senior engineering official of GVMC lamented....