For Peddem’s Rajju Lobo Morajkar, pregnancy the most beautiful feeling for a would-be-mother was quite a nightmare. “During my pregnancy, I had to stay with my mom in Peddem.. it used to be very difficult for me to travel to work or anywhere... I used to always get a bad pain after travelling from that road. Also, Ambulance cannot speed to on that road during an emergency due to the bad patchwork... Accident Patients travelling to that hospital also are facing problem”, says Morajkar. The reason - potholes in front of the new Asilo Hospital in Mapusa which has been adding to the woes of patients and their attendants alike. The pothole hospital approach road is just another addition to the growing list of potholed roads across the State of Goa begging for maintenance and repairs. However, the Public Works Department seems to be more enamoured by the big ticket bridges and concrete multi-lanes highways across the State.
Last month in an affidavit to High Court of Bombay, Vivek Nawle, superintendent engineer of National Highway Circle Mumbai, stated that the potholes on the national highway will be filled by the appointed contractors with appropriate materials as per good industrial practices before September 5. What was interesting was the usage of the expression “appropriate materials as per good industrial practices”. Does that mean that NHAI and Central/State PWD Departments use inappropriate materials and questionable industrial practices while maintaining and repairing roads, normally? Seems so, as a division bench comprising Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla had bluntly asked NHAI and Maharastra Government "If your (state government and NHAI) work is going on under expert’s supervision, then why are potholes recurring on Mumbai-Goa highway, every year during monsoon?" Clearly, in times of smooth, uninterrupted hot-mixed roads with evolving advanced technologies of roadmaking; the pothole seems a thing of the past brought back into contention.
Goa has a perennial obsession with smooth and wide roads which is fine as a citizens’ demand. But in the bargain; the road shoulders, the stormwater drains, both side sloping road gradients just every rule of the book has been compromised. Did you notice the drive from Cansaulim from Cavelossim which was a narrow winding road a decade and a half back now has dual lane smooth road used for high-speed driving? And did you notice that the road does not have rainwater runoff drains on each side? The PWD never factored it in because a scientifically designed road does not require reconstruction every year but a badly planned road needs a repair every year. The repair too is not a planned maintenance but an on the spur patchwork that has been consistently raising the levels of the road but leaving a very fragile and hollow base that caves in with every rainfall.
PWD insiders also reveal that the levels of bitumen (that dark sticky compound that binds the road together) have been reduced over the years. The composition of bitumen in road building material used for a fresh hot-mixing over a large stretch is different from that used for repairs. As such this uneven composition creates a weak patch surrounded by a strong one which eventually starts weakening and the road turns into a pothole zone. The ailment of potholes spreads across over 2855 metre length of road crisscrossing the tiny state.
Last year, the collapse of Sanvordem Bridge expedited PWD Department’s bid to appoint a consultant to audit the state of bridges in the State. The mandate for the consultant was to be an audit directed by the Centre to conduct road safety audits of state and national highways. Between New York-based HAKS and Pune-based ARAI, one was to be appointed to assess why Goa’s road networks were so accident-prone. A year later, there is no sign of the audit nor publication of the report. Does the growth of potholes on Goa’s Roads have anything to do with PWD chickening out on Road Audits then?