In complete violation of its own policy of protecting the mangroves, the government has turned a blind eye to the massive wetland filling from Merces to Panjim KTC.
For months together until now, construction debris has been making its destination along the roadside under the arms of the Atal Setu from Merces to Panjim KTC Circle. Trucks loaded with debris in the wee hours have been dumping the construction waste, which has subsequently been levelled by the Goa government’s departments concerned with the National Highway expansion project and the Atal Setu project.
First, during the highway expansion and construction, the water flow was obstructed, and subsequently, the arrival of the debris ensured that the whole ugly and illegal landfilling project gets completed; so that, while everyone is looking at the Atal Setu, the destruction of the mangroves is completed.
What is most shocking is that the government, as part of its G20 Summit preparations, has asked the Forest Department to plant palm saplings along the stretch as part of the lawn development and beautification work at Merces junction. However, the Forest Department officials are in a fix as they certainly know that palm saplings cannot survive in cement and concrete waste, which is currently spread all along the banks of the national highway.
While on one hand, the government for promotion of the mangroves has developed a ‘mangrove boardwalk’ behind the Sanskriti Bhavan at Patto, which is less than 200 meters in radius, on the other hand, is unable to protect the wetland habitat from being lost forever. A drive along the highway reveals that systemic destruction of mangroves has been unleashed to facilitate real estate and infrastructure development.
What is more surprising is that the PWD officials have claimed zero knowledge about the dumping of the debris. This, even as the Chief Minister alongwith other ministers inaugurated the AI driven traffic signal management system standing at the very same place last week on March 15 and none of the officials or the elected representatives noticed the debris or the mangrove destruction.
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) research in Goa has observed that though there is a decreasing trend in rainfall through the season and the likelihood of more rain on a single day, in such a case, some areas in Panaji will be prone to flooding.
Ahead of the Smart City project proposal being finalized almost eight years ago, TERI submitted a report to the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) stating that eco-sensitive areas such as creeks, sand dunes, mangroves, etc, are natural assets that can help lessen the impacts. Hence they need to be protected as these natural habitats help absorb large amounts of water.
Considering the importance of the G20 Summit to the country and the State, infrastructure development is the need of the hour. However, the hasty work will only expose the poor quality of development and the sham once the foreign dignitaries have departed. Monsoon is less than two months away and the way the weather has been playing games, Goans would have welcomed the pre-monsoon showers much before their normal arrival. And considering the warnings of the TERI, the State needs to prepare for the worst if the capital is hit by a sudden cloudburst-like situation.