DISAPPOINTED with the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) for failing to take action on their grievances, nearly 350 residents of Dungi village near the Navi Mumbai International Airport area have threatened to disrupt airport-related work if they are not relocated to a safer place at the earliest. The village is barely 10 kilometres from where CIDCO has started landfilling for the airport project, and locals said they will pursue legal options if needed against the corporation for making their village “flood-prone”.
After heavy rains on July 10, locals complained against water-logging that saw them in knee-high water in the village. It damaged property and electronic items. This is the second time that villages including Dungi and Pargav have witnessed water-logging, having experienced floods after it rained heavily on June 25. According to Dungi resident Karuna Naik, she has not had a peaceful night’s sleep since the overnight rains last week spoiled her foodgrain and refrigerator.
“We are left with no option but to move to a safer place,” Naik said while claiming that she and her friends had to spend the night at a nearby temple, located at a height. “Most of our essential items including grains, children’s books, television, etc were under water that night. I fear if there are more rains, our village will be entirely underwater,” she added.
In most houses, locals have placed their clothes, utensils, bags and other essential items on high tables, preparing for further rains. Pointing to the damp walls, resident Damiyanti Patil said, “The water has removed colour from my walls. If we had not tiled our houses, earlier made of mud, we would be under water by now. When the flood water is so high, we fear for our little children who may get dragged away in the flow,” she claimed.
Parts of the walls and roofs in Dungi village were damaged by heavy rains. According to Sharmila Sasar, teacher at the Dungi Zilla Parishad village school, there are fears of snakes in the school premises.
On July 10, locals staged a rasta-roko for six hours on the main road to Dungi village following which many senior CIDCO officials and political leaders visited their village. However, locals claim they are losing hope of receiving any help from the authorities. Though CIDCO has promised to conduct a technical survey of the area to find the cause of flooding, locals fear that the village may sustain further damage before a solution is found. Unlike ten villages whose residents have been promised rehabilitation and compensatory packages for loss of land in the NMIA project, Dungi is not entitled for compensation as it does not fall inside the core airport area.
“We want a permanent rehabilitation, not for four months, but just the way other villages have been offered. If it is airport related work that is flooding the village, then they are directly responsible. CIDCO officials place pumps to remove water after much damage has already been done. If our demands are not met, we will not allow any more land filling to be done,” said Reena Patil, a local resident.
The CIDCO, which will fill land up to a height of 5.5 meters, has temporarily suspended work during the monsoon. Many farmers and fishermen are also up in arms against the Corporation for losses they have incurred.
“For the past one year, we are already at home as the land filling work has taken away our creek where we would catch fish. We cannot turn to farming because heavy water-logging dissuaded us from sowing this year. It is time that the authorities act quickly on our pleas,” said Madhukar Naik, another local.
The state government has promised compensation of Rs 2,500 per family in the Dungi village at the end of monsoon for the damage caused due to rains. Claiming that this amount is not sufficient, resident Yashwant Gharat said, “While the authorities may assume this to be a natural calamity, it is not. We will lodge a complaint against CIDCO if they turn a blind eye to our issues.”
Lokesh Chandra, vice chairperson and Managing Director, CIDCO, said, “We are not ignorant towards demands of locals and have taken required short-term measures including installing pumps to remove water. We have appointed experts to study the area and suggest measures on how to prevent water-logging in the area. We have informed the district collector office to consider their rehabilitation demands.”
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