Stressing on the need for regular de-silting of drains and expansion of the drainage system in Vasai-Virar, at least 300 residents of the suburbs voiced their concerns before a fact-finding committee at a public hearing. Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC) had appointed the expert committee to suggest structural changes in the region that was flooded after heavy rain on July 9, driving many residents out of their homes and live without electricity and potable water.
The committee, comprising five members from the National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute and Indian Institute of Technology, began the public hearings on Tuesday and will continue till September 11. “Most people aired their grievances against the nullahs and drainage facilities, which faltered and led to waterlogging and eventually flooding. Some of them have complaints against what they claim is illegal construction. Along with the experts, we have also made a note of everything,” VVCMC Executive Engineer, R Lad, said.
According to Lad, the hearings for four wards were held in two shifts in the first two days. “We saw a high turnout on Tuesday, and a lot of people submitted their complaints. On Wednesday, the turnout was slightly less, as those wards were less affected by flooding,” he said.
On Tuesday, Diwanman and Vasai village residents attended the hearing, and on Wednesday, the residents of Achole and Pelhar pitched their grievances before the fact-finding committee.
However, many people were not pleased with the VVMC authorities’ effort. “What is the point of keeping a public hearing when most people are out to work? Most residents of Vasai-Virar comprise people who go to work early in the morning and return in the evening. It is a ludicrous idea,” Abhinav Kashire, a resident of Virar said.
Another resident, Mayank Gavre, said: “Why is this public hearing needed? Surely, the experts and VVMC engineers have a better and technical understanding of the situation. Why can’t they just take actions?”
The Vasai unit of the Shiv Sena has already called for a boycott of the public hearing. Shiv Sena deputy city head, Milind Chavan, said: “This is a farce by the VVCMC officials. What facts are they trying to find? The flooding was man-made and instead of working on finding facts, they should focus on actually clearing the natural pathways of water and cleaning the nullahs. We are boycotting the public hearing.”