24 Dec 2018 06:10am IST
The new North South road from one end of Goa to the other was supposed to be a gift for Goans, a surprise gift no doubt. Till the announcement of the eight lane marvel, not many if any were aware of the plan for the road. Just before the work on the two bridges started “whats app” was abuzz with the animated walk thru of the new road. It looked very interesting.
However as the work progresses it is becoming abundantly clear, this road is anything but a gift to Goans. It maybe possibly, a planned coal highway or the 2019 election was in mind when deciding this route. It could not have been driven by a plan based on the traffic projections of 2025. The Margao Panaji leg took an average of 40 to 60 mins, at night 30 mins would be normal. A few corrections in narrow areas and by passes as was done at Nuvem and Agassaim would have done the trick. There are many arterial roads eg: Pune Ranjangaon where this 60 km stretch can take 3 to 4 hrs one way, this in part of the Pune Arungabad highway. Yet no one has bothered about it.
This eight lane piece of architecture with beautiful bridges is surely going to be the talk of the town, but when the EIA (environmental Impact assessment) was done, surely it would have noted the fact that a huge number of trees and we are talking about trees that have seen generations pass by, the last report mentioned some 3000 trees. Is this for the whole route or only the Cortalim-Panaji stretch is yet unknown. Water bodies are effected for sure, do not know how many but at Siridao for sure, with the filling. From the air we are used to seeing huge areas of ravaged land, scarred from mining. Now we will see a black ribbon running across Goa, replacing the already shrinking eye soothing green colour. In fact Mr Gadkari mentioned, that when he steps of the plane in Goa the fresh smell and the green cover makes his day.
The latest shock that will surely fuel road rage is the bolt from the blue news item, a 3.5 km part of the road at Cortalim is going to be closed for a year to enable the road work to continue uninterrupted. The devil they say is in the detail and the fine print reads that this closure will entail a 20 km detour. If every citizen has got used to the fact that they are not going to see Rs 15 lacs in their account, they are now sure to see their time and money drain away along with their patience.
This is not about those driving from Margao to Panaji, this is about any and every Goan and even visitor to our beautiful State. Imagine bus loads of travellers from Canacona heading to the North or vice-versa, the travel time is expected to be more than what it took in the era of bullock carts. Considering the digital age where everyone has got used to instant noodles, this is going to surely test the patience of the entire population of the State.
Those working on either side of the divide are going to be worst effected, maybe for one year they will have to quit their jobs. Imagine taxi fares and transportation costs going through the roof.
The comatose administration led by equally brain dead politicians has displayed amazing lack of empathy. The local MLA was quick to state this is inevitable, the PWD Minister who is an aspiring Chief Minister was even better. He feels that pain is inevitable if we want a gain. And the only gain he seems to promise us is actually back to square one, .e Panaji-Margao in 20 mins. The Chinese maglev trains travels at 300km an hour and does the same distance in 8 mins, to do 30 km in 20 mins, what is the speed that a vehicle has to attain, I assume he was talking about people who travel in buses. This will become a deathway if his ideas materialize. Obviously he was not thinking when he made this statement.
The questions that beg answers are: The contractors who are pretty competent in road construction would have had a clear idea about who and when diversions would be required and which parts would need new service roads. A case in point is the new diversion at the Panaji end of the Zuari bridge. As part of their contract they would have informed the State Government that arrangement for land to build the service road to by-pass this 3.5 km would be needed a long time ago. The State Government with half the cabinet in hospital would have slept on this issue and when push came to shove, leaked the information, yes leaked. There was no official announcement, maybe there is no one who wanted to make the announcement. Who is responsible for this mess?
The other question is why would it take one year to complete 3.5 km, this too when the contractor is known to ensure every road he builds before time to claim early completion bonus. So surely there must be something more that is not being revealed at this stage.
The last question to my mind is why did the Government not provide space for a service road, or even expedite the strengthening of other roads so as to reduce the pressure of the planned Vasco detour. The only answer is they were too focussed on leadership change and getting into the drivers seat they have forgotten about the “ROAD”
Happy New Year 2019 and safe driving.
(The author prefers to write rather than chat in a balcao)