How do you protest senseless development? Take out a couple of kayaks on a flooded, concrete national highway, row around and get viral around the globe. That is what young Sheldon and Richie D’Souza did near Fulancho Khuris, Bambolim yesterday when the under-construction highway flooded their access road cutting them away from rest of the civilisation. Sheldon had earlier drawn the attention of the contractors and their ‘highly qualified engineers’ (Sheldon’s own words) but to no avail. Development died an ironical death giving a smooth concrete road to the rest of the world but cutting the D’Souzas’ away from civilisation.
The first onslaught of heavy monsoons that swept away the CHOGM Road leaving it tar ridden, flooded the multi-crore Bambolim-Dona Paula road, swamped the Rs 72.59 crore concrete Miramar-Panjim road and rendered large parts of Seraulim, Nuvem flooded with the multi-crore Western Bypass proved one thing. The roads in Goa are just numbers in the annual budget and grants received by government of Goa. They are just a coat of makeup, a mask that hides the ugliness of questionable engineering, bad planning, bulldozed ideas and whims of politicians. The heavy downpour over the past few days has exposed all that. What has also been exposed is the sinister handiwork of a string of agencies that are literally fooling around with nature using unscientific premises all driven by greed and anti-environmental stance.
Top of the list is the National Highways Authority of India that is carving out multi-crore, multi-lane highways criss-crossing the State from Patradevi to Polem, from Panjim to Molem and from Verna to Ponda. This project has in its wake left a trail of dangerous vertical hill cutting, absence of any alternative routes and most significantly, lack of proper drainage plan. What happened in Karye over the last week was a manmade disaster that left two dead and hundreds stranded. Goa government has hauled an agency that is immune and overbearing upon Goa and Goans.
Next is the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation. A motley bunch of PWD retirees and transferees who (having failed in their parent department) but have taken upon themselves the mantle of development of Goa. The rains that swept the State and continue to batter has laid bare their incompetency. The much-hyped Dona Paula-Miramar concrete way turns into a giant splash pool every time there is a thundershower or downpour. The concrete monolith may look swanky but has no credible water outlets and drainage. A longer shocker is the Rs 33 crore four-lane GMC-Dona Paula circle road that the President of India may be using over this weekend. The Presidential cavalcade shall have to wade through the knee-deep water near the Indoor Stadium, then near the Administrative block and finally where the Goa University area ends. The rainwater just has no place to go! Not to be outdone is the Rs 16 crore subway near Goa Medical College that was filled waist deep in water as dozens of braveheart commuters entered the water-filled cavern only to get marooned and push their way out manually. GSIDC, Goa’s big-ticket money spinner, has long been slipping through the eyes of the vigilance and anti-corruption authorities, unfazed and unchecked. The monsoon downpour brings them back into focus.
Equally at fault is Water Resources and Captain of Ports Departments that are more keen to usher in development in the name of Sagarmala but have not even taken cognisance of the fact that key rivers like Sal, Zuari and Mandovi, especially Sal, are infested with water hyacinths and urgently demand de-weeding and desilting so that large parts of Salcete does not get inundated.
And last but not the least are the City Corporations, Municipalities and Panchayats who woke up to needs for monsoon cleaning and pot holes filling. A price that we will continue to pay through the rest of the monsoon. Scrape deeper and you find that from planning these big-ticket projects to just maintaining them, governance has become more of going through the paces with taxpayers money than delivering simple, long-lasting solutions that can withstand the elements.
This monsoon will unfold to uncover many such scams and frauds under the garb of infrastructure development.