Even as the Ratnagiri district administration is contemplating a protective wall along the Vashishti river in Chiplun city to keep floodwaters at bay, over 4,000 traders and shopkeepers, badly hit by the deluge, have sought assistance to the tune of Rs 3,500 crore from the Maharashtra government.
“The plan for the protection wall along the Vashishti river from Kolkewadi dam is being considered. It involves conducting a survey and sorting out technical issues. We are still in the discussion stage,” Ratnagiri district collector B N Patil told The Indian Express Thursday.
Last week, the entire Chiplun city was submerged as the catchment areas of the Vashishti and Jagbudi rivers saw unprecedented rain. The Vashishti river which flows from the Chiplun city had risen to eight metres and the floodwater in the city areas went well beyond 10-12 feet.
“The Jagbudi river level had risen close to 12 metres while the Vashishti river was up to 8 metres. The catchment areas of the rivers received 700 mm rain which was unprecedented,” the collector said.
The Chiplun Vyapari Mahasangh, which has over 4000 members, however, rejected the official claims and held the district administration and irrigation department responsible for the floods. “We are used to flooding of our shops and homes up to 5-6 feet. But this time, the water went up to the second floor, way above 10 feet,” Kishore Redij, president of Chiplun Vyapari Mahasangh, told The Indian Express.
Redij said there was no alert or warning from the authorities. “The excess water was discharged from Kolkewadi dam without any prior intimation, and this was done early morning at around five when most citizens were fast asleep. As a result, we could not even gather or lock up our essential material and move to safety. Some moved to the top floors and stayed there without power, drinking water and food. A few moved outside the city,” he said.
The collector, however, denied that excess water was released from the dam. “About 10,000 cusecs of water was released from the dam on that fateful day. There was no excess water released. It is because of the flooding of Vashishti and Jagbudi river and the high tide in the sea that flooding occurred in the city area,” he said.
When the water receded, most citizens who lived on the ground found their houses completely ravaged by the floodwater. “The shopkeepers were equally badly hit. There was nothing left inside. The force of the water was so strong that it broke shutters of most shops and destroyed the material and the furniture inside,” he said.
Redij said most shopkeepers operate by taking short term personal loans. “Already due to Covid-19 situation, the shops suffered losses and now this flood has further added to their miseries. We have urged the state government to waive off the loans of shopkeepers like it is done for farmers. If the government can go all out to help farmers, why can’t they do the same for the shopkeepers?,” he said.
The association has urged the chief minister to provide financial aid of Rs 3,500 crore to the shopkeepers and traders to restart their lives. “When Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray visited Chiplun a couple of days back, we told him our lives will be completely destroyed if we don’t get the aid. The CM has promised to help. We hope the government will bail us out from this unprecedented crisis,” Redij said.