Panvel Floods of 2005

The memory of flash flood on the evening of July 25 2005 and destruction in its wake sends chills in the spine of anyone who had witnessed it. Although it was raining very heavily for three days continuously, although a thick solid sheet of rain was battering the land, no body expected that it would turn into a nightmare. Within minutes the area around Panvel was under 10 to 12  feet of water. It looked as if the Arabian sea has expanded and and gulped the pieces of land lying in its vicinity. The loss of property was huge though human lives were spared by the nature to some extent.

Many a times afterwards, I wondered where did so much water come from. I did some analysis thanks to Google Earth imagery. The area around Panvel is full of geographical features with uneven landscape and so many hills all around. Just after the Panvel town flows a river called Kalundre so named after the village on its bank. It seems like a sinuous ribbon of uneven thickness in summers and winter. It is season river. On tracings its source, it is found that it flows from the hills and is made of two rivers joining together. One is Kundsar lake and another is Panvel lake situated under the foot of Gadeshwar. Water is fettered at both places by barrages. Beyond the Gadeshar are Chanderi hills and one can approach Matheran through this area on a road leading to Dhandheri village from Panvel.

There is another very insignificant river which is known by the name Kirki the origin of which I could trace only to Shedung. I am not sure of that. Many people believe that ONGC colony which is like an island between these two rivers was inundated by this river. This may not be very true, because the capacity of this rivers is very less. I surmise that very heavy rains threatened the dams up the hills and their gates were opened. The another factor was that Panvel being very close to the sea, in the event of high tide which was there at this time made it impossible for the area to bear the brunt of so much water coming like a demon on the town.

Next few days were so bad and depressing, that many people left the colony and searched for the safer houses on the upper floors. It is also a bitter truth that we are ourselves responsible for these disasters. By snatching the land which belonged to sea, where it dumped its extra water in the times of high tide through a network of channels of water all around. We have filled these channels and constructed the houses. Nature does not care about the differentials, its justice is done on an integral scale. Builders make profits and enjoy at safe places whereas the poor people bear the brunt of nature’s fury.

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Our colony

When in the year 1991, I got transferred to Mumbai from Silchar, the ONGC colony at Panvel was brimming with occupants so much so that I was allotted a B-type house that had been used as the storage for cement and other building material when construction was going on. After 6 months I got C-type accommodation but not before a flood entered our home. What logically everyone expects to happen in Assam happened with us here in Panvel. That was in 1991.

I got transferred to Assam second time in 2005. I was on leave in July when the flood attacked the colony and ravaged it. We are in the first floor and within minutes the water completely submerged the ground floor. A river was flowing outside in the street.

The flood of 2005 marked a watershed year in the history of the colony. People suffered big losses both emotional as well as economical. A fear psychosis developed in the minds of occupants and an exodus of residents began.

After this incidence, about 1/3rd of the flats in the ground floor are lying vacant. These flats were not even once thoroughly cleaned, disinfected after that. Slowly, the locks began to be broken. It seems that stray dogs-the whole battalions of which roam the colony, pigeons and mosquitoes have been given allotment in these flats. Mosquitoes are breeding and by the evening are on the rampage making every weapon like mosquito coils, good knights and sprays completely ineffective.

Everywhere on the roads, broken building materials are lying. Choice of trees which have been planted is very poor. On many lanes, the trees which are used for fuel wood have been planted. Then there are trees which when flower have so strong a scent that one can choke at night and many children suffer allergies at the flowering time.  Other trees exude a certain gummy substance which ruins the paint of the cars standing below them.

Many of the trees are under the vicious attack of termite. There are dead trees standing in the lanes giving apocalyptic warning about the colony becoming a ruin. It certainly looks like a ruin. It is certain that hardly any officer connected with maintenance ever visits the interior of colony.