Heavy water leakage from a 3-metre big breach was detected in the 40-year-old Mahim-Kelve dam in Palghar district, causing danger to a few villages situated downstream, officials said here on Saturday.
As a precaution, the district administration has started evacuating the local villagers and deployed teams of NDRF and SDRF to tackle any eventuality in case the dam bursts.
The Disaster Management Unit under-secretary K. Suryakrishnamurty has requested for another NDRF team from Pune.
According to officials, the dam has a capacity of around 2,600 cubic million litres of monsoon water storage, but is now discharging rapidly at around 1,300 litres per minute, sparking major safety concerns for the villages downstream.
At least five villages — Jhanzorli, Dondhaalpada, Bandade, Naveenpada and Patharipada — which fall directly below the dam, are being evacuated.
A fully-equipped NDRF team with flood water rescue equipment, high rise gadgets, plus ropes and ladders has reached the spot to tackle any eventuality, Deputy Commandant Ashish Kumar told mediapersons.
“We were summoned by Palghar Collector Manik Gursal and if required, we can get motorboats and other rescue essentials to shift the locals to safer areas,” Kumar said.
Deputy Irrigation Engineer Prabhakar Giri said that presently, teams are trying to control the leakage with sand-bags and other materials, but he ruled out the possibility of the dam bursting in view of the dry season.
He said that minor leaks were first noticed around May last year, which increased by July and the Irrigation Department’s Dam Safety Organisation in Nashik was duly informed.
Expert divers carried out underwater videography but at that time the water was 9-metre deep and hence it was difficult to empty out such a huge quantity.
Plans were afoot to undertake major repairs soon, but the huge breach was noticed on Saturday following which the concerned departments swung into action.
The immediate plan is to seal the breach with around 300-400 truckloads of sand during the night and by Sunday, the officials expect the dam to become safe.
Besides the NDRF and SDRF, another posse of 100 police personnel and a squad of Riot Control Police have also been deployed and the villagers are being alerted of the potential hazards.
The Mahim-Kelve dam is located around 100 km from Mumbai at an elevation near the Jhanzorli village. Other villages below the dam have been put on high alert.
The Palghar Irrigation Department executive engineer has ordered round-the-clock monitoring of the dam condition and directed all necessary measures for the safety of the villagers falling in its path and move them to safer locations.
The small dam stores water from monsoon rains, and is a popular picnic spot for people from Mumbai, Pune and south Gujarat, with the surrounding forests a favourite with bird-watchers for the large number of species spotted there.