With rains at the door, memories of last year's flood haunt Vasai-Virar

Updated: Jun 27, 2020, 07:30 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

Residents claim that the levelling up of a creek to build a park has been causing the flooding, say cannot suffer another financial loss

A flooded residence in Vasai-Virar last year. Pics/Hanif Patel
A flooded residence in Vasai-Virar last year. Pics/Hanif Patel

The onset of monsoon has sparked the fear of flooding in Vasai-Nalasopara-Virar which had witnessed heavy waterlogging last year. Residents, already struggling amid the pandemic, said ground-floor residences were inundated and belongings worth lakhs were damaged last year.

Civic authorities claim that all big nullahs, creeks, culverts, etc. have been cleaned. The area has recently witnessed a fast proliferation of residential colonies. Sandeep Tembhkar's ground-floor flat at Anand Dham in Krishna Township was inundated last year. "Last year, my furniture and other belongings were floating inside my flat. The rainwater was present for over three days. I had to get everything remade, which cost at least R1.5 lakh. The government gave relief of only R15,000 per house," he said.

"Most of us are jobless, we cannot have another loss amid a financial crisis," Tembhkar said.

Chairman of Anand Dham building Pradeep Suryakant Dandekar said, "I have been living here for 20 years and we never faced waterlogging. But the Sopara creek has been levelled up to make a park at Krishna Township. The disturbance in the natural flow of the creek is causing waterlogging and flooding."

"The building next to ours was sealed by the VVCMC after a resident tested COVID-19 positive. If there is a flood this year, there will be a health and humanitarian crisis as nobody will come to help us," Dandekar added.

Pradeep Suryakant Dandekar, chairman, Anand Dham building.
Pradeep Suryakant Dandekar, chairman, Anand Dham building

"With there being a financial crisis, if it floods again, we will have no option but to commit suicide," said Dandekar.

Kiran Sharma, a resident of Gokul Angan, said, "I incurred a loss of R3.5 lakh as my electronics and furniture were destroyed. We moved to the terrace but where do you answer nature's call? We had asked the chairman and secretary of the building to construct a washroom on the terrace but nothing has been done so far. It is very embarrassing to knock neighbours' doors to use the toilet." Since last year, many residents have installed western toilets as Indian one's experience sewage water rising up during flooding.

A banker, Rekha Shukla, said, "We are already scared of COVID-19. Now the onset of monsoon is giving us sleepless nights." The chairman of Neminath Tower Nilesh Kukadal said, "Rainwater does not enter in our compound but everything else stops. We have to stop going to work."

NEERI suggestions ignored

The VVCMC (Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation) had roped in experts from NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) but their suggestions were not followed, alleged Milind Shivram Chavan, president of Yashashvi Foundation.

"Illegal encroachment and the illegal levelling up of Sopara creek is the main reason behind the waterlogging/flooding. The VVCMC must be held accountable for both. An enquiry must be held," said Chavan, who has been fighting against illegal encroachment in Vasai.

"I have been suggesting VVCMC officials since last year to construct a transit camp where people in distress can be shifted during floods. But everything has gone unheard. No location has been identified to build a transit camp in Vasai-Virar. Last year people in distress were kept for days in a temple," said Kiran Chendvankar, corporator from Vasai East.

The civic body has boarded up a nullah to prevent water from entering the city.
The civic body has boarded up a nullah to prevent water from entering the city. 

Senior principal scientist of CSIR-NEERI, Mumbai, Ritesh Vijay said, "We have observed that a few areas have been encroached upon, which disturbed the natural course of water, there vegetation growth in drains, culverts need to be redesigned, etc. We have submitted our recommendation to the civic body."

The recommendations include clearance and restoration of natural watercourses, creation of additional stormwater channels, raising of the road level, construction of holding ponds as per the sanctioned Development Plan, installation of automated gates and most importantly, installation of weather stations in Vasai-Virar.

"NEERI made important recommendations in April. The total cost to execute the recommendations will come to around R300 crore. The work on the recommendations of experts will be done phase-wise for which we will float tenders. Meanwhile, cleaning of drainage, culverts, etc. has been done during the lockdown and we are hopeful that there will be no flood-like situation in Vasai-Virar this year. But if it rains heavily, i.e. beyond 200 mm, coupled with a high tide, then it can cause trouble," said Rajendra Lad, Executive Engineer of VVCMC.

358 COVID cases on Friday

On Friday, 358 new COVID-19 were detected in Vasai-Virar-Nalasopara. So far, 3,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, out of which 1,568 have been discharged and 1,328 cases are active. With the death of three patients on Friday, the death toll reached 104.

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