In normal traffic, it takes five to seven minutes to drive from the base of the Kesarval hill cross the Zuari bridge and reach the Agasaim police station.
It can even be quicker if there is no traffic. But for the past months, traversing this same distance is at times taking upwards of an hour, and as the queues of vehicles on either side of the bridge keep lengthening, the fury of the people stuck in the traffic jam increases. Tempers are running short, for the drive is aggravated even more as the bumper-to-bumper traffic has to contend with the dust that rises from the bridge construction.
The traffic jams have been happening for months and there appears to be no solutions in sight as yet. A fortnight ago, traffic on this stretch got stuck for over three hours. On Sunday there was another long delay, as traffic jams that began around 1.45pm, continued till 10pm with some vehicles stuck on just that stretch for a period of two hours, leading to travellers describing it as a nightmare. It prompted the Congress to give the government three days to address the chaotic situation, failing which it will agitate at the site. Congress has agitated on the bridge for the same reason before, but the authorities have paid little heed to the opposition demand.
If this is the situation in the summer, one can only imagine how much worse it can get once it begins to rain. With three weeks to go before the monsoon sets in, there is no plan in place to streamline the traffic on either side of the Zuari bridge, where construction work is currently on. The monsoon makes driving a lot more difficult, and here it will be a lot worse, as there will be mud on the road that can make it slippery as it mixes with rainwater, there is no proper lighting along the roads that have now been constructed, and driving on these in blinding rain will be perilous.
The authorities are aware of all this. Last week there was a meeting called by the Mormugao Deputy Collector to prepare a plan of action to prevent any untowards incidents and landslide in this area, where the hill has been cut off for the bridge construction. The possibility of landslides exists, as the hill cutting has left bald patches of land on the side of the road, and any landslip could lead to not just blocking traffic, but even endangering life. The builders and other government agencies have been given a week to present the plan. Why is there a delay in preparing a plan for traffic management on the stretch? When the traffic jams have been occuring for monhts, it is unreasonable on the part of the government to have delayed finding a solution to this problem.
The work on the bridge is expected to take another two years. People are looking for a solution to the interminable waits on either side of the Zuari river, as the traffic jams will otherwise continue for thee next 24 months. It is over three years since the foundation stone was laid, the traffic jams have been increasing of late. There has been ample time for the authorities to plan the movement of traffic rahter than taking it up only when there are traffic jams. Following a review on Monday, the police have decided to increase their presence on the stretch, and install bollards and dividers to ensure that motorists do not break lane rules. These are temporary measures for the current situation, what is also needed is a plan for the months ahead when the problem could escalte with the monsoon. Who is planning for that?