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How an open, 6-lane highway got flooded

Updated on: 04 July,2023 07:25 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Diwakar Sharma |

After Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway flooded in last week’s rain, causing 12-kilometre-long traffic jams, NHAI says there are over 300 encroachments like dhaba, resorts, etc, which have clogged a culvert set up to drain rainwater

How an open, 6-lane highway got flooded

The flooded Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway last week. Pics/Hanif Patel, Anurag Ahire,

Illegal encroachments along both sides of the road mainly caused the heavy flooding on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway, especially near Sasunavghar in Vasai East, after the first spell of rain last week. The Manager (Technical) of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway, of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Sumit Kumar told mid-day they have identified 300 encroachers along the road and issued them notices after their recent two-month-long drive. 

He blamed the municipal corporation for allowing the encroachments and said they have asked the body to act against the culprits. The MBVV police will lodge an FIR against the encroachers. The drive was conducted between Virar phata and Versova bridge on National Highway (NH-48) from February to mid-April this year, said Kumar, adding, “We have faced major encroachments by the illegal dhabas, resorts, hotels, car washing centres, spas, salons, studios, etc. Most of these establishments are either constructed on the land of National Highway or our land is being used to park vehicles for their guests.”

Some eateries built along highwaySome eateries built along highway

The trouble

There is a mountain on the east side of the highway in Sasunavghar where major flooding was witnessed last week. When it pours, the rainwater naturally flows downhill on the road. A culvert has also been made under the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway for easy passage of rainwater coming from the east to west side of the road. “But the encroachers have blocked the natural passage of rainwater. So the rainwater accumulates on the highway causing flooding and affecting traffic. The local municipal corporation should have been vigilant to stop encroachment along the highway,” said Kumar. 

These encroachers have blocked the natural drainage system and culvert causing rainwater to accumulate on the highway triggering massive traffic jams up to 12-km. Motorists and commuters have to suffer as it takes an alarmingly long time to cross the waterlogged road. The first week of monsoon threw traffic out of gear with cops seen regulating the traffic in waist high water.

Kutch Darbar is one of the restaurants constructed on NHAI land near Sasunavghar where the roads were heavily waterlogged. Pic/Hanif PatelKutch Darbar is one of the restaurants constructed on NHAI land near Sasunavghar where the roads were heavily waterlogged. Pic/Hanif Patel

Officials meet

The traffic snarl prompted a high-level meeting of top officials from police, municipal corporation, NHAI, revenue departments in the presence of the local MP last week.

At the meeting, which took place at Mira Bhayandar Vasai Virar (MBVV) police commissioner’s office last week, the NHAI official revealed that the notices have been issued. “There are around 300 illegal encroachers on the nearly 30-km stretch between Virar phata and Versova bridge. Though we have taken action against a few illegal encroachments in Vasai and Pelhar a few months ago; they still flourish,” Kumar said.

“At the meeting, I requested the VVCMC commissioner Anil Pawar to take action against the illegal structures which are clearly violating the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) guidelines,” he added.

Eateries named

“The food joints including Kinara dhaba, Pritam’s dhaba, Selfie dhaba, and hoarding of Kutch Darbar are constructed at the premises of National Highway near Sasunavghar where the roads were heavily waterlogged,” Kumar added.

Citing the MoRTH guidelines, Kumar said, “There are some structures constructed on land these eateries own, yet the drainage system is not properly made causing flooding on the highway. As per the MoRTH guidelines, the structure must be at least 300mm below the level of the highway. But these structures are made after leveling the land and somewhere are made at a height. All the structures must have their drainage pipes connected to the nearest culvert but none of the structures or food joints follow the guidelines and the waste water is released on the road.”

“The structures close to the carriageway have blocked the culvert and natural drainage system. This was brought to the notice of the municipal corporation and we have requested civic chief Anil Pawar to act and free the highway from encroachers,” Kumar added. A culvert, whose mouth was blocked by Kutch Darbar, was cleared after the traffic cops and civic officials jointly worked on it before the monsoon’s onset in 2022. “Though the culvert was opened, the Kutch Darbar still uses NH-48 land to park the vehicles of its guests. Also, they have erected a hoarding on NH land for which a notice has been issued,” Kumar said.

Locals speak

A social activist, Atul Mote said that all the illegal encroachments are flourishing under the shelter of Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC). “I had apprised VVCMC Commissioner Pawar of the encroachment along Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway many times before the onset of monsoon. But the municipal corporation did not pay heed to our suggestions. Why does the municipal corporation not take action against the illegal structures which are constructed along the NH-48? And were the NHAI officials sleeping when these illegal structures were being made?” said Mote.

“Had the municipal corporation cleaned the nullah as well as culvert before the onset of monsoon, the road users would not have had to suffer in the heavily flooded highway last week. Now, I am going to write a letter to Mantralaya complaining about the VVCMC Commissioner and will request the chief minister for his immediate removal from the post,” he added.

Sushant Patil, the president of Palghar-based Bhumiputra Foundation, said, “NHAI and VVCMC should plan storm water management to avoid waterlogging on the national highway, as it is the responsibility of both the authorities. Our ancestors had handed our farm land to the government at a throw away compensation for road development but NHAI has failed to remove encroachment of hawkers on their premises. They have failed to provide basic amenities for the smooth flow of traffic.”

Eatery owners speak

The manager of Kinara Dhaba, Anil Thakur, confirmed that NHAI has issued them a notice. “We have been running this dhaba since 2002. The NHAI has issued us a notice for unauthorised access, no drainage provisions and taking access permission as per MoRTH circular. 

“We have spent lakhs of rupees on our drainage system. In fact, there is an illegal land filling just behind our dhaba which is operational since 2002. It is the reason the water got accumulated and the highway got flooded,” Thakur said.

The owner of Pritam’s dhaba, Pritam Singh, said, “We have not encroached upon the land of NHAI to construct our dhaba. Our property is CIDCO approved. The NHAI has issued us a notice as they want to widen the highway and they are about to do this after monsoon. The main reason behind flooding of Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway is inaction of the municipal corporation to clean the drain before the onset of monsoon. Also, there is a private land next to Selfie dhaba where land-filling obstructed the natural flow of rainwater leading to flooding on the highway.”

“The VVCMC swung into action after the flooding caused major inconvenience to road users. Now, the civic officials are working relentlessly to clean the drains. Had they worked with the same speed before the onset of monsoon, people would not have been inconvenienced due to the heavy flooding on the highway,” he added.

Officials’ speak

A senior VVCMC official told mid-day, “Our men are at work on the highway and multiple machines have been deployed to clear the blocked rainwater.”
An officer from MBVV police said, “We will lodge an FIR against the encroachers. We are ready to provide police if the civic officials or NHAI conduct their anti-encroachment drive. Violators will be booked if they create any nuisance or obstruct the officials from discharging their work during the anti-encroachment drive.”

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