10 Manmade Disaster in Vasai - Fr. Francis D'Britto

posted Aug 14, 2018, 9:18 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 14, 2018, 9:18 AM ]
Vasai: a town with a glorious history

Verdant Vasai, once a gem in the empire of Emperor Ashoka, has been blessed with the presence of holy persons like Sage Parshuram and St Gonsalo Garcia. It is a town that has an illustrious historical and cultural past. The town of Vasai, with an estimated population of 25 lakhs, was cut off from the rest of the world on July 9, 10 and 11, 2018. It was an unprecedented event. All forms of communication and travel came to a standstill. The town had no electricity for over 48 hours. The roads resembled ravaging rivers. Waist-deep water invaded houses and shops. Vegetable produce rotted in the farms. Fisherfolk could not sell their catch. Many of those who lead a hand to mouth existence spent three days without food. Children cried for food, while residents watched stocks of food being washed away in the deluge. The sick could not avail of medical aid. Many homes were waterlogged for nearly a week. Drainage water invaded several homes. Worse still, the distraught residents felt orphaned, as hardly any one lent a hand of support.

The cause of the waterlogging

I am a son of the soil and have witnessed many monsoons. Heavy rainfall is a characteristic of this place. However, in the past, the collected water always receded after a while. That leaves one with the question: 'Was this flooding an act of nature, or was it manmade?' Why did the planning of the Municipal authorities fail? In fact, the Municipality needs to conduct a strict audit of its own functioning. The 200 mm downpour was considered a reason for the disaster. It is high time to give up this blame game, and do some soul-searching to find the reasons for the disaster. It is also time to ensure that adequate steps are taken to prevent such a catastrophe in future.

The topography of Vasai

To understand why waterlogging occurred in Vasai, it is important to look at the topography of the region. Vasai is bordered by the Sahyadri ranges to its east, the Arabian Sea to the west, the Vaitarna creek to the north, and the Bhayandar creek to the south. The north-south railway line that runs through the region is flanked by salt pans and agricultural lands. Rainwater drains into these low lying lands, and then enters the Arabian Sea. History speaks of Sopara being a famous port, and Bolinj (near Virar) being a centre where boats were anchored. All these areas have been concretised, and thus natural drainage routes have been blocked. The torrential rainfall of July 26, 2005, where Mumbai received 910 mm rain in 24 hours, affected Vasai as well. However, the waters receded in a short while. That was a warning sign to Vasai which went unheeded. Rather, the very area, where rain water could stagnate, was used to construct towering buildings.