Residents say they felt as if a canal was flowing through their housing societies with just vehicle tops visible
Ever heard of boats in place of cars and motorcycles in a human habitat? The periphery of Chandigarh witnessed just that as monsoon rains wreaked havoc this past week. A population of over two lakh people suffered as their societies were flooded after recent rains; they could not venture out of their homes, could not buy essentials like milk, and daily provisions, and their vehicles were submerged under water with just the roofs visible. Welcome to the Gulmohar City Extension in Dera Bassi, 20 km from Chandigarh.
When residents bought houses here, the allurement was that it was an extension of the world-class architect Le Corbusier designed Chandigarh. So what if it wasn’t Chandigarh? It was just 20 km apart.
Adjoining Gulmohar City Extension is Krishna Enclave also in Dera Bassi where Neeraj Tiwari lives. Tiwari who hails from Varanasi, says, “I had no idea that one day I would have to sleep or eat with water around my bed or the dining table. Had I known, I would have never bought this house.” For Tiwari, this is not just his house, it is an investment. But now it has taken away the peace of his mind. He says, “We have decided to sell this flat and buy it elsewhere.”
But the question is would there be any takers for a house in this housing society after the entire world has seen all of this?
About seven km from Dera Bassi towards Chandigarh is Zirakpur. Zirakpur was a village 20 years ago. And dream homes were sold by unsuspecting builders to those who could not afford houses in Chandigarh.
Harish Sharma, a resident of Gurdev Nagar, Zirakpur says,” When it rained, and our society was flooded with water, it looked as if a canal was flowing through the society.” Sharma attributes this flooding to the rampant encroachments along the Sukhna Choe and other water channels which have reduced rainwater carrying capacity and it finds its way into the housing societies.
Tiwari rues that the local authorities, who approved the housing societies and colonies when they were being built without ensuring basic civic infrastructure, should be hauled up.
Woeful tales of the likes of Tiwari and Sharma are not restricted to Dera Bassi and Zirakpur only. In Kharar, it is no different. A resident of Khanpur, Kharar requesting anonymity says, that a number of housing projects have come up due to its proximity to a number of private universities. But the basic facility such as sewerage and drainage is poor.
Sunil Khurana, a resident of Ambika Green in Kharar, says, “Initially the builders paint a rosy picture while selling flats. But only when one starts living does one realise that one has been cheated. In Kharar, the sewerage system is not to the capacity, sewer holes keep overflowing onto the roads. The rainwater enters societies every time it rains incessantly.”
Even in the posh New Chandigarh area which is a few minute drive from Chandigarh but falls under SAS Nagar district, residents are alleging that a developer has built a housing project on a dried bed of rivulet by blocking its natural course, dug up the road to drain out the rainwater from residential projects to the nearby fields.
Most of these flats on the periphery of Chandigarh cost anything between Rs 30 lakh to Rs 70 lakh depending upon the area of the flat. Most people are paying monthly installments through their teeth.
When contacted Aam Aadmi Party’s Derabassi MLA, Kuljit Singh Randhawa blamed the nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and builders for encroachment on natural drains which stand obstructed by the concrete jungle. “The builders have encroached the Ghaggar river and several other small rivulets and sold them to the people (in the form of residential plots or flats),” Randhawa says.
He adds, “After the status quo is achieved in terms of restoring life and livelihood we will carry out an inquiry (into the land grad) and take action against the builders who cheated,” he added.