Even as residents of the satellite towns of Vasai-Virar are still taking stock of the damage the massive downpour in July caused, the Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC) claimed that there was no flooding in the area in response to an RTI query. While the corporation later dismissed it as a “clerical error”, not all residents have taken it kindly.
On July 10, Vasai-Virar recorded the state’s highest rainfall of 299 mm bringing local trains to and from Virar to a standstill, making access by road unthinkable and forcing the residents to spend 48 hours without electricity.
Several factors, including extremely heavy rainfall between July 9 and July 12, clogged drains, blocked natural exitways for water and the high tide, led to flooding of the three neighbouring townships of Vasai, Virar and Nallasopara, 50 km to 70 km from Mumbai.
The residents had had to throw away their furniture and several businesses incurred heavy losses. The municipal corporation commissioned a fact-finding team with experts from IIT and NEERI to assess the cause and changes needed to avoid such a situation in the future.
The RTI was filed on August 23 by a resident of Vasai-Virar who doesn’t wish to be named. The civic body’s response to the RTI application has left the residents flabbergasted.
“We wanted to know which nullahs caused the flood, the damage incurred and the steps being taken regarding the chawls and houses constructed barring the nullahs and stopping the flow of water,” said Milind Chavhan, a local activist and Shiv Sena leader.
The response by the VVCMC’s encroachment and illegal construction department states, “None of the nullahs or the rains in July caused any flooding in the area and thus we have not taken any action.”
“That the authorities are denying that the flood ever happened after commissioning the fact-finding team is wishful thinking at its best. The authorities need to first ensure if their own subordinates know that the flood occurred or not,” said Chavhan.
When contacted, VVCMC commissioner Satish Lokhande said, “Everyone knows that the flood happened. What’s the point of filing an RTI asking that? I understand that this might have been a clerical error. We are not assessing the damage, it is the job of the collector. As far as the changes made are concerned, the fact-finding committee is working on that. We haven’t demolished anything except one bridge near Sativali, which I did on my accountability even though it was not our job.”