Pune: As more and more bodies are being pulled out of the mud and debris in Malin village near Pune following a devastating landslide, sources in the local administration say 17 other villages face the same risk.
"How many villages like this exist we will have to enquire. We will conduct a survey all over Maharashtra. We will take a decision based on that," Patangrao Kadam, Maharashtra's Relief and Rehabilitation Minister.
Indiscriminate flattening of slopes and cutting of trees to create cultivable plots not just wiped out Malin but put several other villages situated on the foothills of the Western Ghats at risk, especially during torrential rains when chances of landslides are very high.
"Some human intervention is there. I have come to know that there are some paddy plantations in the area. The slopes have been cut and there is environmental degradation. We cannot ignore that," said Harbans Singh, Director General, Geological Survey of India.
86 people have so far died in the landslide that struck early on Wednesday, flattening over 40 houses in the Malin village, located on a hilly terrain, nearly 120 kilometres from Pune. Only eight people have been pulled out alive.
A case has been registered against the local agriculture officer for allowing cutting of a slope right above the village. But the administration is yet to begin risk mitigation measures for other villages.
Many residents have left their homes out of fear, but some, despite losing everything, have no option but to return.
"We will have to come back as our agricultural land is here," said Govind Ramrao Zanzare, a resident of Malin village.
"We are scared to live here. It can happen any time and it will affect us," Santosh Kharat, another villager.
While Malin village is yet to come to terms with the tragedy, the landslide has reignited the debate on environmental degradation due to construction on the Western Ghats.