The twin cities of Vasai-Virar are no stranger to power cuts. But a heavy downpour, which started on Sunday afternoon, left some areas of Vasai like Diwanman — where this writer also resides — without electricity for an unprecedented 72 hours (and counting). While it is common for Vasai residents to use power inverters at home, they are equipped to run for not more than a day. As the water level kept rising through the weekend, the immediacy of the problem was felt first by shopkeepers and residents on the ground floor. In the complex where this writer stays, residents moved with their belongings to the terrace or found shelter in an unoccupied apartment. With no electricity, water pumps could no longer be used to supply water. The task at hand, therefore, was not only to ration groceries but also drinking water. It was only on Thursday evening, that the Vasai-Virar City Municipal Corporation finally supplied drinking water through tankers and brought diesel generators to power water pumps.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, garbage trucks were unable to make their way into residential complexes, resulting in a surfeit of waste at homes and on the streets. On Thursday, when the trucks did manage to wade through the water-logging, it resulted in rubbish spilling in the stagnant waters, leading to widespread stench and an increased panic of diseases. As the area remained cut off — with newspapers reaching only on Thursday morning — people were left wondering if the local trains, a mode of transport the residents of Vasai-Virar are heavily dependent on, were functional.
Raised in Vasai, this writer has seen the once sparsely populated town grow into a city of increased construction activities, and an attraction for migrants who are unable to afford the real estate prices in Mumbai. A traffic signal was first installed near Vasai station only a couple of years ago, an indicator of the spurt in population growth. Arbitrary constructions like elevated platforms in low-lying areas and residential complexes on former salt pans and marshlands, seem to have aggravated the flooding in the last three days, leading to a hostage-like situation for thousands.
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