Vasai (Bassein), on the mainland north-west of Bombay, was a large Portuguese enclave, second only to Goa, until 1739. The northern holdings of the Portuguese, including Daman and Diu, were governed from this centre. The fort and the hinterland around it were lost to the Marathas in a campaign which lasted two years and ended in complete Maratha supremacy.
The region remained primarily agricultural till the end of the '80s. The census of 1981 found the total population of this area to be less than 250,000. Vasai had a population of 34,900 and 23,303 people lived in Virar. Only one village, Agashe, had more than 10,000 inhabitants. There had actually been a drop in population in many towns and villages in the area over the previous ten years. The MMRDA was the planning authority for this region since its formation.
In 1988 the state government de-reserved this region from agricultural use, contrary to the recommendation of the MMRDA. Development began immediately with the entry of private builders. By the time of the 1991 census a 150% increase in the population of the area was observed. The towns of Vasai, Virar, Sopara and Sandor grew by 290%. The growth was entirely due to residential usage by people commuting to work in Mumbai. Many unauthorised buildings were constructed and sold, and later had to be regularised by the state government.
In 1991, when the MMRDA was replaced as the planning authority by CIDCO, civic amenities were completely missing. Power supply was available only two days a week, and there was no piped water. There was no central drainage system, and less than 10% of the area had motorable roads. Some of the towns could be reached by the extended suburban railway system but transport to and from the stations was almost non-existent. This state of affairs has not changed. Even in 1996 residents may get as little as 10 litres of water per day. The fact that property values in this region have not risen in proportion to the rest of the city shows that the region is still far from developed.